all things must pass...

Vacation time is winding down - and it has been lovely. All summer has been sweet with a family reunion, reconnections with the Kelly cousins, time in Ottawa and Montreal and a grand house painting by my musical colleague - and expert painter - Grahm Sturz (check out his information:!s-Painting-Company,-Inc.-413-281-0808) There was a church picnic, jazz festivals and lots of down time, too. What's more, I was able to complete ALL the liturgies for worship for the next four months - through Christmas - what a hoot! And tomorrow we head down to Maryland for two days for my sister Laura's son, Thomas', wedding.

Clearly autumn is in the air and I will be back as worship leader this Sunday. In addition to the summer reunions, feasting, music and travel, I must report that the time finally came when I had to tear down my dear backyard arbor. It was, if you'll pardon the expression, a rite of passage of sorts for me, as the arbor has been the source of focus and fascination as I learned to mark the spirituality of our seasons. There are literally hundreds of pictures of it on my computer and postings - but now it is no more. This is appropriate for autumn where some things move into death so that others can rest only to return with beauty and new life at another time. The wisdom of the seasons is vital for balance and all too often I try to live beyond the limits its rhythms.  As one friend noted in her quote of a George Harrison song, "All Things Must Pass."

When we returned from Canada last week, it was seriously listing and looking fragile. After a recent rain, it was nearly on the ground. So, after trying to straighten it again and having the rotting wood break off in my hands, the time had come to pull it completely down. The picture at the top shows autumn from three years ago. The arbor looks like the gateway o a place of mystery and wisdom in my imagination. Parker Palmer put it like this: 

Autumn is a season of great beauty, but it is also a season of decline: the days grow shorter, the light is suffused, and summer’s abundance decays toward winter’s death. Faced with this inevitable winter, what does nature do in autumn? She scatters the seeds that will bring new growth in the spring – and she scatters them with amazing abandon.

In my own experience of autumn, I am rarely aware that seeds are being planted. Instead, my mind is on the fact that the green growth of summer is browning and beginning to die. My delight in the autumn colors is always tinged with melancholy, a sense of impending loss that is only heightened by the beauty all around. I am drawn down by the prospect of death more than I am lifted by the hope of new life. But as I explore autumn’s paradox of dying and seeding, I feel the power of metaphor. In the autumnal events of my own experience, I am easily fixated on surface appearances – on the decline of meaning, the decay of relationships, the death of a work. And yet, if I look more deeply, I may see the myriad possibilities being planted to bear fruit in some season yet to come.

As I pulled the old wood down and tossed it onto the compost pile, another part of Palmer's came to mind: 

I can see in my own life what I could not see at the time – how the job I lost helped me find work I needed to do, how the “road closed” sign turned me toward terrain I needed to travel, how losses that felt irredeemable forced me to discern meanings I needed to know. On the surface it seemed that life was lessening, but silently and lavishly the seeds of new life were always being sown. This hopeful notion that living is hidden within dying is surely enhanced by the visual glories of autumn. What artist would ever have painted a season of dying with such a vivid palette if nature had not done it first? Does death possess a beauty that we – who fear death, who find it ugly and obscene – cannot see? How shall we understand autumn’s testimony that death and elegance go hand in hand?

What follows are a few other pictures showing the slow passing of this inanimate but intimate old friend.  At the right time another will be built, but only at that time still to be revealed.


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