winds are howling. the chimney is hiccuping (rather rudely), with every passing blast of gale-force updraft. cigar pods from boughs on high are poinking needle-like into the heads of anyone fool enough to tiptoe outside. the last few berries from the american cranberry, the scant few that haven’t been gobbled by blue jays and high-wire squirrels, they’ve been slammed to the ground in a bloody blob this morning.
a few minutes ago, i glanced out the window and thought it was raining itty-bitty locust leaves. then i rubbed my eyes and realized it was a hallowed eve’s snowfall. snow blustering, maybe.
the sky is pewter. the air so cold even the cat is howling in protest.
all in all, it seems surround-sound signal from the seasonal trumpeter: time for burrowing to begin.
autumn as october teeters towards its close, as november waits in the wings, when golden glow gives way to stovepipe gray, when stripped-bare branches scratch at endless sky, autumn is the season to hunker down, to draw in, to turn our attentions toward the essence deep within.
all this dialing down, buttoning up our nubbiest sweaters, slithering on socks for the first time in months, it’s all a call to haul out the soup pots from the back of the cupboard, to reach in the fruit bin for the season’s offerings — the ones that, in keeping with autumn’s ethos, reveal their succulence only after peeling away, digging in, extracting.
if it’s true — as a wise man taught me last week — that God wrote two books, one of which is the Book of Nature, then we’d be fools not to read along, not to inhale the verse of the shifting light, the shadowing that autumn’s depth brings.
if it’s true — and why wouldn’t it be? — that God in God’s Infinite Genius imbued every corpuscle of creation with a map pointing to the interiority of the ones charged with making sense of all this, the ones for whom understanding leads to illumination, which leads to enlightenment, then wouldn’t it follow that one of our holy callings is to heed the wisdom of the bough and the sky and the crunch underfoot?
and so, to steep myself in autumn’s teaching, i step outside into the whirl of this hallowed day’s preamble to winter: i feel the bumper crop of goosebumps on shoulder and thigh and nook of my neck; i inhale the faint whiff of logs burning from somewhere not far away; and, without much dawdling, i scurry back inside and do as instructed.
i pull on another sweater, i plonk on the couch, and survey the stack of pages waiting nearby. i begin to consider pumpkin — and not for carving, for roasting. i press my nose to the glass, set my gaze skyward, watch gray clouds scuttle by.
contemplate the coming depths.
i might be calling it quits on puttering about the garden. might tuck away the hose, the trowel, the watering can. might gather up the bird houses, replenish the bird-seed bins. the deepening is upon us. time to consider those who depend on us to make it through bitter days ahead.
the wisest thing to do, i reckon, is begin the prayerful coiling, the tending to what’s inside and too long left cobwebbed. it’s the season of introspection, and i’m settling in to do as so divinely ordered.
because tomorrow is all saints day, a feast day best honored by honoring the saints who populate our living breathing days, i’m beginning the nominations here with a beloved neighbor named sarah, who moved home a few years ago to care for and feed sumptuous nightly feasts to her aging mama and papa. just yesterday, sarah’s mama could not be awakened. she was breathing, but un-rousable, so an ambulance came and carried her away. she’s now deeply sedated in the ICU, where sarah and her papa kept vigil all day. late last night, sarah finally ferried her papa home, sat him down to feed him, then, in an act of compassion that purely took my breath away, she “rigged up his bed with pillows, so he can feel like he’s bumping into her” all through the night. sarah is saint number one in my book this year. please whisper a prayer for sarah’s mama and papa, and, deeply, for sarah.
who’s on your list of everyday saints? no need to name names. just a story will do…..and question number two: how do you begin your burrowing? what’s on your winter’s reading list?
Lovely post– brought tears to my eyes to read sarah’s story–such a kind and thoughtful person/daughter. Blessings to all.
bless you. thank you for coming to the table with chairs….
Prayers to Sarah’s mama and papa, and bless her for taking such special care of them ❤
i know. she is such an angel, right??
My dear, poetic friend, your words are my heart’s delight and my soul’s nourishment. Thank you for this beautiful post, and for being wonderful you.
Special prayers for Sarah, for her mother and father.
dear amy, your special prayers and the prayers of all those who come to the table might be in the midst of being answered. i hear dear sarah’s mama is now awake, and spittin’ mad that she wasn’t left to sleep. all she wanted was a long autumn’s nap. i think dear sarah is breathing again — as she was the one holding her breath right along with her mama and papa…….
i ALWAYS love your visits. thanks for pulling up a chair. xoxo
Wonderful news! May Sarah’s mama heal quickly and completely! xox
First off, I send strength and hopeful wishes to Sarah. I was there this summer, sleeping on a pull-out couch in an ICU room, half sleeping, half listening, full of worry. Sarah is definitely a saint, doubly so for so lovingly tending two aged parents.
Ah, Halloween! Samhain! What else do we expect but lowering skies and buffeting winds when the doors between two worlds, this one and the next, fly open once a year? Even though I was late for work, I bypassed the LSD entrance ramp, rolled down the windows, cranked open the sunroof and took wild, winding Simonds Drive through the northern end of Lincoln Park, FEELING this abrupt change of seasons as waves crashed, leaves blew and not-quite-snow spattered the windshield. Once the winds calm, I’ll keep an ear out (and others at the table might want to also) for the spine-tingling bugling of sandhill (and perhaps a few whooping) cranes, hightailing it for Indiana and harvested croplands farther south. I’m taking your sage advice, bam, and practicing seeing, listening, being and getting outside my comfort zone. Didn’t answer your questions, but this is what you inspired today.
i love the image of you driving wild-haired through lincoln park, feeling the whirls of the wind, listening for sandhill. we could write gospel on sandhill. my mama hears them, sometimes, over her house. i’ve not been so blessed. nor with the owl i am longing for. i THOUGHT i heard one once, but i might have imagined. i’m thinking of importing an owl. just for my soul’s sake….
karen, i love your image of the door between two worlds opening…..
merry trick or treat, all, to mix a few holiday metaphors….
I’m so happy to see the good news about Sarah’s mom. Do I know any saints among us? I can think of one, but she would be keenly embarrassed to be called out on her own blog.
agreeing with ngw there…right on.
well, good words all around for your neighbors-god love them. sarah’s calling is a rough one, she answered with great love per your account. yes, to support i will pray and be inspired by her devotion..
i think of two aunts, two sainted aunts- my nostalgia grows with the tea towels and recipes they gave me as i see clearer each time i use them, that they too inspired me with their humanity, kindness- over looking almost always, the sins of others, sometimes against them. they often felt as though the unkindnesses directed at them often enough by the “poor souls” were evidence in fact- of a person who knew not what the strong-women-aunts knew- love, support, blessings. it gets harder and harder as i age, to know this, to have lived this to have witnessed these experiences throughout my life through these women- that i too should think and feel as they did. and i do, only- not near as sweetly and flowing on as they did. i get stuck, darn fools irritating me…ha, i don’t recall ever that reaction from them. i’m learning.
my mail box was so happy to receive a book binded by prayers and wonder, thank you…a million times over.
Oh…Olive Kittereridge. and Lila.
i love this litany of saints. and i love your last sentence, first graf: “I’m learning.”
oh, we need the saints, the everyday saints, so ardent students we can watch, absorb and try to be a wee inch closer to the goodness they exude.
so tickled that your mailbox was filled, my beautiful friend. my resurrection farmer. (page 110, for anyone who wants to harvest her wisdom. and beauty. xoxox)
… a feast day best honored by honoring the saints who populate our living breathing days…..
aware…that i’m not aware…of how deeply i’m buried in traditions of not acknowledging saints…
…maybe a burrowing deeper into this knowing will grow into newness this spring entering summer…
curious, and of course i mean with full heart, of tradition of not acknowledging saints. taking a wild guess i am thinking that might be imbued with a humility of not seeing any human as one ounce better than another…i love the many threads richly braided here. and i am curious. and sending love on what is now all souls morning…..
blessings, dear sunshine….xoxo
all souls morning….i hope it allows me to pull up the rocking chair on the porch:-)
b – trying to explain whirlwind thoughts with someone’s words: “orthodoxy as right belief will cost us little; indeed it will allow us to sit back with our pharisaic doctrines, guarding the truth with the purity of our interpretations. But orthodoxy as believing the right way, as bringing love to the world around us…that will cost us everything.”
i learned about Life within borders of (our) ‘right belief.’ The rich colors of traditions, of rhythms, of meditations, of lighting candles, of acknowledging yesteryear’s saints did not fit within the right and wrong, black and white judgmental teaching ..(unknowingly imparted to us…) ….. but within this system our parents and grandparents taught us – a humility of not seeing any human as one ounce better than another…a hunger? a question in them? I believe so…and am blessed…
because of this –
… i find myself today wanting to burrow deeper into the mystery of Life with all of its mosaic parts…respecting a “both, and”… …learning to live and believe the right way…
…living to learn and believe the right way…
a journey… of bringing love to the world around us…that will cost us everything… the saints we meet? the saints we’re allowed or rather good enough to be?
does it make sense?
You and Joan Chittester are streaming in the same grace of observation:
(From Joan) Our spiritual heroes
“Saints”—spiritual heroes of character and courage—are very elusive figures and not always all too comfortable ones either. They carry with them the ideals of ages often quite remote from our own, even, in some cases, psychologically suspect now. They seem to uphold a standard of perfection either unattainable to most or, at least in this day and age, undesirable to many. Their lives are often overwritten, their struggles underestimated, and their natural impulses underrated. They have become a rather quaint anachronism of an earlier church full of simpler people far more unsophisticated, we think, than ourselves and whom we think ought to be quietly ignored in these more enlightened times. I disagree.
We could use a saint or two, perhaps, to raise our sights again to the heights of human possibility and the depths of human soul. It might not even hurt to pass one or two of them on to children who are otherwise left with little to choose from as personal idols than what Hollywood, TV, and the music industry have already given them, of course.
I knew a saint once: He was a young man with an old grandmother, a sick mother and two brothers in wheelchairs as a result of a genetically inherited illness. He stayed home, unmarried and unpromoted all his life, to care for each of them, all the way to the grave. His inspiration didn’t come from rock stars of American glitterati. It came from saints, the heroes of the daily.”
~ And so the stereo stimulation had me being quieter and more thoughtful the last few days as I found all kinds of saints…prickly ones, private ones, and passionate ones. One, a buttoned up friend dealing with long time grief, another, a husband privately caring for his wife who is in early Alzheimers and he is not yet acknowledging publicly what we can all see. Still another, a retired teacher who is sharing beautifully everything she learned while teaching. “Learning” teachers are the best teachers.
Finally, my public “saint” is James Foley. I say a prayer for his family every day. He fits into my “martyr” saint category. He was passionate in his search for God. He was truly was Com-passionate in his desire to share the beauty, grace, and humanity of the people in Syria and Afghanistan – the people we don’t get to see on the news. He faced the mystery of violence and inhumanity always seeking God. I hope I can just seek God in the small ways with a modicum of his courage.
As always, grateful for the direction you point us with your reflections and questions. Bring on November!
beautiful, your litany of saints. speaking of james foley, i was shaking for days after reading the new york times account of his tortures…..it is unfathomable the horrors this world holds. and the way the bar keeps being lowered, in terms of horrors and tortures. or is it that the opaque screens have been pulled back and we are less reticent to speak of the uglinesses. i find my soul shaken to nearly broken when i read of such things, and it takes me days to patch myself back into whole. which is why, i suppose, i keep looking for the light, for the saintly ones you name above, dear joan, to lift me from despair.
in pilsen a few weeks ago, i stumbled upon the most poignant memorial to james foley, love notes tucked in a cyclone fence, to the martyr of pilsen they called him, for he had lived in pilsen while in chicago. i don’t think i can post photos in a comment, but i did snap a picture, to carry his memorial home……
i pray for his mother who lives to endure the ever-looping horrors of her son. james, i pray, is delivered to everlasting grace…..i do believe so.
sonja, i love the “both, and” school of life. and your expression of “the mystery of Life with all its mosaic parts.” and your question, “the saints we’re allowed or rather good enough to be…..”
all of those points linger for me….it is such a journey, the sifting through the many colors, the realizing the lines put before us, the daring to see beyond, making peace, relishing. claiming the mosaic.
sending a heart full of gentleness….