AROUND THE KITCHEN TABLE
September. I look out my window this morning to see a bank of white cloud, high and flat with a rounded edge — like a massive saucer advancing over the college building at St. Peter’s. Beyond it the most striking blue sky I have ever seen. It’s hard and hurts the eyes. Only fall can serve up such a blue plate special.
The geese are gathering in flocks on the marsh and blanket fields in restless undulations of black and white. Is it the sky that has called this gathering? Their cacophonous chorus is heard overhead in the dark of night. Winter is coming.
Does a hard blue sky summon yellow from within the birch outside my window? Yesterday it was almost completely green. Overnight there appears a shock of yellow in one spot — like when people develop a patch of grey hair after a trauma. Winter is coming.
Robins tutt and fuss about the yard. It’s strangely hot today and if I close my eyes to the yellowing trees they sound like spring. But despite the heat they are planning their escape. It won’t be long now. Winter is coming.
Mist blankets soggy swaths lying in a field one autumn morning. Too much rain, too much cold. The crop is junk, a farmer says. Winter is coming.
Thunder shoots across the September sky like a cannon blast, spewing shrapnel of rain and leaves. The wind roars and my birch is diminished. Ephemeral beauty.
To everything there is a season, and September is the season of letting go. I remember when my youngest child started school. Gerard was in Grade 1 and I accompanied him to his classroom. Apprehensive, he hung up his jacket, turned, looked up at me and said: This is going to be hard.
It never gets easier. It was 13 years ago on Sept. 17 that my mother left us. I remember it being warm that morning, but by the time we gathered several days later to officially say goodbye, the wind was bitter and remnants of leaves huddled in gutters as branches were stripped bare.
Cruel and beautiful.
Early this September a baby is delivered, not into his mother’s arms, but into the embrace of the One who holds us all. See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands (Is 49:16) . . . A little one who made his presence felt and was loved even before he was formed, though never took a single breath. . . . you are precious in my eyes and honoured, and I love you . . . (Is 43:4).
Grief sweeps over a young family like the September wind sweeps billows of dark clouds across a golden prairie landscape. But grief does not pass as quickly as clouds.
Winter is coming. But this is not some ominous warning. The changing seasons of our lives are part of the mystery we live every day. It’s just that some mysteries seem almost past bearing, especially those of loss.
This is going to be hard. And it is. Sometimes there is nothing to do but put one foot in front of the other, carrying hope in a pack that at first feels too heavy to bother with. Eventually you might lift your head to see the midnight blue of a starlit autumn sky. . . . do not fear, for I am with you (Is 41:10).
Hope is unpacked.