And the leaves keep on falling...

There have been a TON of leaves to rake this year - and that is probably
a good thing as it gives me time to think and move. The autumn air has been chilled of late, sometimes with passing hints of sleet, so winter is just around the corner. Before sleep last night I reread these words from Parker Palmer about the season of fall. He notes that autumn is all about the interplay of harvesting and sowing, dying and reaping unseen blessings:

Autumn constantly reminds me that my daily dyings are necessary precursors to new life. If I try to “make” a life that defies the diminishments of autumn, the life I end up with will be artificial, at best, and utterly colorless as well. But when I yield to the endless interplay of living and dying, dying and living, the life I am given will be real and colorful, fruitful and whole .

As I pile leaves onto the compost heap I know this to be true. At the same time that my back aches, I feel connected to a rhythm of life and death far greater than myself. I am also keenly aware, however, of how easily I  try to escape from this paradoxical truth. Palmer observes that:

In a paradox, opposites do not negate each other – they cohere in
mysterious unity at the heart of reality. Deeper still, they need each other for health, as my body needs to breathe in as well as breathe out. But in a culture that prefers the ease of either-or thinking to the complexities of paradox, we have a hard time holding opposites
together. We want light without darkness, the glories of spring and
summer without the demands of autumn and winter, and the 
Faustian bargains we make fail to sustain our lives.

I think that is why we wanted to watch "Maleficent" last night. I liked it and found the paradoxical interplay of light and darkness in the main characters to ring true to my own inner debates. In a unique twist on the traditional "Sleeping Beauty" plot line, it is the evil queen who both experiences a change in heart and raises the young princess with love and wonder as an act of repentance, and also shares with her the kiss of true love that finally awakens the sleeping beauty from the curse. In an age filled with darkness, it was an archetypal reminder that no matter where we find ourselves on the road of life, our stories are not over: they are ripening as we change and respond to the quiet but ever real call of compassion.

It is less than six months to my sabbatical in Montreal. I am so eager I can barely stand it. And, at the same time, I not only have more leaves to rake but two essential liturgical seasons to journey through with my faith community. (And let's not even mention my own sojourn with grief, ok?) There is also a stewardship drive to accomplish this month and a musical concert to benefit our neighbors in need of emergency fuel assistance. I love each of these discrete events and want to embrace them fully. I also know that my energy level this year is at an all time low and my spirit subdued. So for reasons greater than myself, it feels as if I will be wandering through autumn far longer than the season on the calendar.

Perhaps that is why this year's Thanksgiving Eve concert is shaping up to be quieter and more mellow than previous incarnations. I know this has guided my planning for this year's stewardship drive; it too will be more of a gentle reminder to be faithful than a full-out NPR fund drive. I seem to be trusting the truth of autumn more this year than in years past - particularly as I wrestle with this insight from Palmer:

When we so fear the dark that we demand light around the

clock, there can be only one result: artificial light that is glaring and
graceless and, beyond its borders, a darkness that grows ever more 
terrifying as we try to hold it off. Split off from each other, neither
darkness nor light is fit for human habitation. But if we allow the
paradox of darkness and light to be, the two will conspire to bring

wholeness and health to every living thing.

My heart says to rest in this paradox. After all there is tea to share with my sweetheart this morning, more leaves to rake, a bass groove to practice for tomorrow's worship and our church harvest supper this evening. Through it all, the leaves keep falling...

photo credits:  Dianne De Mott


Peter said…
Maleficent is a splendid film, and as you so astutely observe, the light and dark of the characters, especially Maleficent, mirrors the light and dark dance of our own psyches. I loved watching her slow and painful growth, not to mention her profound courage in allowing that growth to happen.

I was privileged to watch it with Emma, our daughter, with whom I had quite a good discussion afterwards.
RJ said…
I've been waiting to watch it since your good words, my man. And I am so grateful.

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