Some of us love the fall. The crisp winds that turn the leaves from green to gold, to crimson - to the warm earth-tones that command woodsmoke to rise. We reach for wool socks and sweaters as the rains come to wash the summer’s fruit ready for harvest.
Some of us find this all just a little hard to handle. “Wait!” we cry “just a few more empty days of heat. Just a few more plunges into cooling waters. Just a little more time to spend with family and friends before we submit to the call of fall.”
What is that call? Somewhere deep in our DNA is the call for survival. When the weather turns, something in us turns our heads to the business of life and death. On the surface it’s all about back to work, back to school, back to routines and the civilizing work of church and community and care. Beneath the surface is the whispering question “Are we ready for another winter? Will there be enough in the pantry? Who will survive and who will suffer?”
I’m told this is mating season for the critters in the forest. Really? I thought spring was all about rising hormones? But it makes sense. Where do all those spring babies begin? The urge to merge is nature’s demand for species to survive.Isn't there also an urge to merge with community? Come together, work together, cooperate because we need to?
As dreams of summer slowly fade we turn towards the setting sun in the west. It’s time to leave behind adolescent self-indulgent freedoms. Summer’s purposeless wanderings are over too soon. It’s time to grow up and get a grip.
The call of the fall is the call of the quest. The world we want is a long way off. The place we need to be together waits there – over that mountain ridge – through that pass yet to be discovered. The place where heaven meets earth – where summer’s innocence gets shared with all whose childhoods have been stolen. We can find it. We can make it. We can discover the way – where there’s more than enough to share - but hurry – time is running out.
This call stirs the blood of heroes. The part of us all that responds to the urgency of things needing to get done. We rise from the daze of long lazy summer’s play and wake to the heroic work of the sacred journey.
This journey is not about the youth-full freedoms of hitting the road and seeing where we end up. This journey is about the step by step, steep uphill climb of seeking justice, finding the wellsprings of compassion that never run dry, discovering where need meets greed and pushing through the boundaries that fear and failure have set.
This journey becomes more urgent the older we get. The climb is just as steep, but muscles complain where once they sang, joints ache where once they sprang, willpower must be summoned where once it overflowed. We’ve got a long way to go before we reach the wisdom of our elder’s winter-time mountain-top view. We’ve got so much to do. We’ve got heavy loads to carry. We’ve got to get going – NOW! – while there’s still time.
And yet, because we’ve been responding to this call for years and years, there is wisdom that’s been earned. The call that once came from without - from the authority of parents, of bosses, of baby’s new shoes – now comes from deep within.
We hear so much clearer now. In the fall of our lives there is a voice within that we’ve learned to discern even in the midst of all the noise of too many things to do. Deep in the bowels of our inner sanctum a sage speaks clear and sound advice. Truths that sting remind us of the ground we’ve covered, the tumbles from grace, the wounds we’ve suffered, and even worse - the harms we’ve inflicted. The sage points silently in the direction we’ve still got to go, and offers the word I need to hear.
Like the red-hot coals at the last of the campfire’s burn. After the last of the sticks of accomplishments have been added. After the stories have been told. After the lies and laughter have turned to smoke., there’s a word for each of us. It’s a word about what’s still to be done. About what I still must do. About the role, among all the roles I play, that is uniquely mine.
From the northwest a wind comes and stirs my embers. The far off call of heaven on earth kindles what burns still hot within.
Are you clear? Do you know why you’re here? Can you hear that call within?
Summer’s not over yet. September 21st brings the equinox. Maybe there’s time for one more campfire before you get down to the busyness of the groove that’s yours to follow.
Your sage patiently waits.