We go to sleep on Wednesday, Aug. 31, a hot, dank, humid night, wake up the next day, Sept. 1, and all of a sudden, it’s fall. Just like that. A snap of the fingers. A blink of an eye. Summer exhales, and fall steps into the void.
I believe it was the Impressionist Claude Monet who went to a particular spot on a pond every day for a year. He was observing a particular tree, watching it change from day to day, season to season. He recorded those changes on his canvas, and I’m sure that when he looked at those paintings, he saw easily what I thought about now several years ago. At the end of the summer, the trees look tired. They have fought the hard summer sun, the dry winds, and the enervating humidity for as long as they can. They are looking for relief, and they are worn out. It’s about this time that God gives them the help they are looking for in the form of autumn: cooler temperatures, a gentler sun, and wafting breezes.
Much in the same way, spring approaches to give us all relief from the biting winds, bitter cold, and damp chill of winter. Right before that first blush of yellow green – spring green, in the Crayola 64 box – the trees look as if they have just about had it. They look bare, ragged, ready to give up the ghost to the brutal weather under which they try to stand firm but by which they are eventually beaten down. And then, one day, out of the blue, we drive along the highway, looking out at the bucolic landscape, and see a touch of color on the branches. Just a touch. The trees have made it through another winter that has tried to make them surrender. But they do not surrender.
So here we are, at fall again, having gone through a summer that has given us heat, at times tolerable, but at times overwhelming, and the trees have shown us yet again that regardless of what befalls us, we can endure and even triumph.
I often look at nature as God’s way of helping us make sense of it all. We are promised seasons of life; Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a time for everything under heaven – a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to reap. Our lives even parallel the seasons – youth of spring and old age of winter. It’s no coincidence that Easter comes at spring: we see resurrection of dormant grass and trees all around us at the same time Christians are promised a different – but same – but same kind of resurrection.
I often think of the oppressive heat of summer as the time of life through which we must struggle; just like the trees, we get tired of the struggle and think that we can find no end to it. And then one day, we wake up, and it is fall, giving us a chance to recover, to find the strength to go forward, to breathe through more temperate times.
It’s hard to remember, as we go through each year, that just when we think we can’t take any more, another season comes along to give us another chance. So today, when I woke to sense autumn’s respite, I breathed a sigh of relief. I can certainly use a gentler season about now. I’m going to revel in it.
Deborah Mitchell is a a local attorney and a Municipal Court Judge.