The air has a bit of a chill in it, the first leaves have started to change on our trees, sprinkling the yard with crimson, gold, and amber. Summer has past, and fall is upon us.
Libby needs new jeans and new boots, because her legs are gloriously long and she’s outgrown nearly everything from last season. Apples, and pumpkins and cinnamon spice candles have made their way into my kitchen and the sun no longer wakes me each morning as the days are getting shorter. It’s happening. Change.
There is richness and glory that comes with the vibrancy of color in the changing leaves and the crisp air that greets me as I let the dog out each morning. Beauty tied to the gentle dying that comes as the frigid cold begins to slowly set in a bit more each day. If you choose to be fully present you can feel the chill right alongside all the warm, iridescent auburn, cinnamon laced goodness of the season.
Fall is a slow and beautiful death.
I’ve lived through enough change, seasons ending, to recognize the signs. Just as there is always the first crimson leaf to fall to the ground beneath the big maple tree in our yard there is the first conversation or meeting that falls into my heart, landing in a space that calls me to sit with it and notice, to be present as it says, “Tracy, things are about to change, this is coming to a close….death is near.”
Fall came a bit early for my heart this year, that first conversation was months ago actually, as I sat looking at the financials for the non-profit I currently oversee. The pattern of decline, 8 years old, that I have been fighting, hoping we could reverse, was in fact continuing and there was no avoiding it for me.
Last week the board of directors and I sent a letter out to our constituency notifying them of the reality of where things stand. In December I will be stepping off the staff along with others, in hopes that they can keep the ship afloat while they re-group and address the issues, beyond just money, that have contributed to where things are today.
As I wandered the streets of Chicago last weekend with Katy and a couple of friends I could feel the invitation to be present, I could feel it because there was also the option of shutting down in order to numb the pain. The weekend was vibrant with goodness, a bold choice to do something epic for Katy and the chance to be with her in it for the rest of us. Shopping in stores we often frequented while Allison was a student at Moody poked at my heart saying, “These days are fleeting, you may not have the chance to do this again, Allison isn’t here and those days are gone, these may be gone soon too.”
Moments pass, so quickly, and you can’t re-live them or get them back. There are no second chances, there is only the choice to be fully present or largely absent to all that is available for my heart to feel as the season changes.
The chill of death running alongside the reality of the presence of joy and life. Stay and feel it or shut down and numb it.
Yesterday I made apple dumplings, because it’s what we do in September, since moving to Michigan. As I rolled out the dough I let myself feel and remember, the first time we picked apples six years ago, the first dumplings I had sitting at a friend’s table, today we no longer have a friendship. Next I made spaghetti sauce, the way I learned in Italy when we traveled with a group of friends from here to celebrate their anniversary. It was all there, the goodness, the vibrancy, and the chill of death. Last night I felt exhausted, wrung out from the inside. I went to bed and slept hard.
This morning I dropped the girls at school and chose to hit “play” on my music instead of making a work call. It was a choice to breathe and take in the music and the scenery while driving through the country fields on my way to work. Sarah Groves sang a song, which I hadn’t heard before; I cried all the way to work. The sense that Jesus is with me as the crimson and auburn leaves are falling and death is gently in the air pierced my heart releasing tears that needed to be cried.
Fall is here, there are no second chances at being present; it is proving to be a slow and beautiful death, and I don’t want to miss any of it.
Tracy Johnson is a lover of stories and a reluctant dreamer, living by faith that “Hope deferred makes the heart-sick but when dreams come true there is a life and joy” (Pro. 13:12). She is the Founder of Red Tent Living. Married for 29 years, she is mother to five kids. After a half century of life, she’s feeling like she may know who she is.