Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Beginning of Fall - Part Two

There is a tree a few blocks from our house that has recently begun to “go through the change.” The leaves on the outer edges of the branches have gone from verdant green to rich mahogany. Although only a few of them have changed color so far, by the end of this month, I imagine that the majority of the leaves will be a shade of red that is reminiscent of ice cold cranberry juice. Set against the background of the Bradford pear trees that seem to stay green for most of the year, the tree under consideration is brilliant beyond compare. My feeble attempts at descriptions of color do that magnificent specimen no justice; forgive me. I will say it as plainly as I know how: at the beginning of the fall every year, this tree matures into a kaleidoscope of earth tones that are luxuriant, intense, full-toned, and breathtakingly origin.

At the beginning of the fall, the green chlorophyll in the leaves and branches begins to withdraw from its prominent place in nature’s color scheme and all the other shades, the reds, oranges, yellows, and burgundies are finally allowed to shine forth. I remember being amazed in high school biology class when I learned that those colors are always there; they are simply outdone, outnumbered, and overridden by green during spring and summer. The beauty is always there, but it is only at the beginning of the fall when it appears to the naked eye. I love that; the beauty has always been there. We just haven’t seen it.

I will turn 40 in just over three months; my birthday is three months and thirteen days from today to be exact. According to many age charts, most women’s magazines, and despite all hopes and wishes to the contrary, I am at the beginning of the fall of my life. I am still green in most spots, but the edges are starting to darken. Skin tags and sags are harder to hide. Dark spots get darker. Hair begins to grow where it ought not be. Joints snap, crackle, and pop in the morning. Laugh lines deepen – gotta laugh more, though. All these lines and bumps and spots have always been here; I’m horrified on a daily basis by how much more visible they are, even to my naked eyes, which are getting weaker by the year.

My hope, my dream, and my prayer are that I will live the rest of my life, from now, the beginning of the fall, until the end, the dead of winter, in such a way that my brightest colors will show more and more over the passage of time. In my 39+ years, I have known the early bloom of infatuation, the warmth of love, the heat of passion, the reproductive season, and now I will slow down a little and let my true colors shine through. I will read more novels and watch less TV. I will read with greater discretion and write with greater insight. I will spend more time with family and friends in search of more satisfying relationships and less time in search of the perfect lipstick to match only temporarily satisfying outfits. I will sit still and listen more to the stories my husband and children want to tell me. I will seek wisdom and understanding. I will seek silence and solitude. I will pray and read the Bible more. I will share the few tidbits of truth that life and love and the Author of Life and Love have taught me.

Here at the beginning of the fall, I will send my roots deeper into the earth, into the nutrient-rich loam that resides beneath the superficial layers of life. I simply don’t have time to waste on the silly stuff, the stuff that doesn’t last. I will travel as much as possible. I will reflect on life and write my reflections as much as possible. I will surround myself with fellow seekers and thinkers who want to make the final years the best ever. I will ask as many questions as possible. Going forward, whenever I am in a tough situation, I will ask myself questions like, “How much time have you spent pondering the lesson you are meant to learn through this difficulty? What have you learned already? How is this experience making you stronger? How will this challenge, this storm, this infestation of life’s little pestilences and plagues make your colors shine brighter?”

One dear friend of mine is watching her father’s health fail. Another is watching her marriage fail. I watch in sorrow as the levees of New Orleans fail, homes are destroyed, and lives are lost. As oil rigs are set adrift out there in the Gulf of Mexico, oil prices are sent skyward here at home. As the war rages on in Iraq, lives are cut short in Darfur, and people in southeast Asia are still recovering from last year’s tsunami, it is painfully obvious that there is simply no avoiding the beginning of the fall. The entire planet is at the beginning (or is it the middle?) of the fall.

In the midst of it all, I wonder what is happening to my colors. Are they brighter because the Light of Life shines through me or are they darker because the fear and despair have dimmed the light? When others come to me for help or advice, do I open my arms like the mighty magnolia to provide rest, shade, and protection? Or will I wilt, fall, and impede the progress of others as they seek shelter from the storms of life? When storms like Katrina, Divorce, Death, and Job Stress blow over me, around me, and through me, in Whose arms do I hide and find shelter?

Here at the beginning of the fall, I am convinced that my richest hues have yet to be revealed. I believe that life’s most meaningful lessons have yet to be learned. I am determined to find deeper passion in my marriage and parenthood than I have ever known. I long for my friendships to be more expressive, more dependable, and more meaningful. I want meals to be tastier and lingered over longer. I want times of peace, love, and togetherness to last longer and times of anger, war, and disagreements to end sooner. I want to experience more faith and less fear, more love and less bitterness, more laughter and less resentment. I want to live gracefully, age joyfully, and die peacefully. With my brightest colors in full view.

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