The End of Summer

Little Natalie, nearly three, grinned at me. I was holding a giant Church Year Wheel and we were pointing to the seasons and naming them together. We had gone through the circle several times, but she was having trouble saying Christmas. Finally, I pointed to the long white triangle poised between purple Advent and green Epiphany. “Christmas,” I said slowly. “Kismas,” she replied, grinning. Then she clapped her hands with delight, her dark eyes wide.

I’ve kept her face before me all day, thinking of seasons. We are still in the middle of the long green Trinity season, but in the secular calendar the summer is ending, the autumn soon to come. In our culture we mark this transition with Labor Day. School begins, football begins, days shorten, nights lengthen. At times in September and early October an “Indian summer” pushes the temperatures up in a last surge of heat, but for the most part the air hints of a crisper season, a season opening a door to winter.

I am in the autumn of my life. My summer years are largely spent, having slipped into the past. They were years of growth, I believe, in many ways, and years of faithfulness, I hope and pray. The spring of my life seems long ago now, and I am glad to be past those tumultuous and anxious tears of youth. And yet, I know, that around the corner of my coming winter, lies another spring, a new and glorious spring.

This last summer held many challenges. Tragedy and heartbreak visited, bringing along their siblings grief and near-despair. I looked them in the eye and showed them the back door, sending them on their way. I bound up the broken and I prayed the psalms, crying to God for help. And God heard me.

I know he heard for there were many victories and many joys this last summer, triumphs that at first I didn’t see, being surrounded, as they were, by the tragedies. Yet I did see them finally, and as I take stock of June, July, and August of 2012, I find myself stepping through a field of lilies, born of the seeds I faithfully planted in the months before, the years before, that suddenly sprouted through the dark loam and into the light, reaching for the sun. So today I breathe deeply and am thankful.

One lily came in the form of a lovely Foreword from Lord Ravensdale (Nicholas Mosley) to be included in the new second edition of The Faith,retreat addresses given by Father Raymond Raynes in Denver in the late 1950’s. Lord Ravensdale knew Father Raynes, Superior of the Community of the Resurrection in Mirfield, England, and had edited the first edition of this work (pub. 1961). It was such an honor and so personally enriching to edit The Faith for the American Church Union (a bouquet of lilies right there) and now I have Lord Ravensdale’s charming story of his experience with Father Raynes to include in the book.

Another lily in my summer field was finding a new home for my mother after her fall in late April. It was a challenge, overseeing her healing, her spirits, her move from her old home to her new. But it is done, and she is content. The stacks of paperwork have slowly diminished, been reshuffled, signed, sent on, sorted and shelved as necessary, and believe me, there were stacks. I can almost see my desk now, almost.

Then there were the deaths of two cousins. One died the same weekend my mother fell, so I was unable to attend the memorial. But I was able to attend the memorial of the second cousin. With other family members in Sonoma we spoke of this lively Irishman, his vitality, his humor, his energy. In this shared time of memory, we could see him sitting on a cloud and watching us, lighting a cigarette, a martini at the ready, his eye twinkling, his grin infectious. I think I saw golf clubs nearby. He was so high-spirited that it was difficult to believe he had really left us, but his death formed new bonds between the living, something I think he would have appreciated.  Later, around a kitchen table, I listened to my aunt tell stories of her childhood migration from Denver to Spokane to Los Angeles. I learned what my cousins were doing in their lives. I shared my own joys – my novel scribblings, my cats, my children, my adventures in London, Paris, and Rome this last spring (see earlier posts).

I turned sixty-five in July of this lily-strewn summer. Soon my son turns forty, and one of my stepsons turns fifty, milestones on our pilgrimages through each span of time. My husband gave me a lovely gold cross for my birthday and I’ve kept it close to my heart, warming me. For in truth, the cross enclosed all of my years, my spring years, my summer years, my autumn years. The cross will guide me through my winter years coming soon, should I wake to travel them.

Then there were the lovely lilies of friendship, of gatherings after long separations, when our church family met to consecrate our bishops. The faces come to me now, eyes bright, smiles earnest. I recall lines mapping speckled skin and children now grown who pressed their palms into mine and kissed me on the cheek. We told our stories back and forth, weaving a new one in that moment together, mingling one another. In that space between us a starry light lingered like fairy dust swirling in the air. We had all passed through our many seasons of faithfulness and here we gathered, joined once again by Christ, in his body the Church, joined by love.

Such friends do indeed flower a field and, I thought, such faithfulness greens our years. In truth, it was weekly faithfulness that sprinkled my field of lilies over this past summer, each Sunday singing with the children, telling stories about the love of God, crafting door knob hangers with creedal phrases on popsicle sticks, coloring Church Year Wheels and naming the seasons, cutting and pasting prayer banners with graces and Lord’s Prayers. We made magnet verses to take home to place on refrigerators. We watered our plants, their green shoots promising.

So I look back as the air turns a bit crisper and the sun sets earlier each evening. And I look ahead to autumn, beginning with the Sacrament of Confirmation when our older ones will confirm their Baptismal vows, reciting that very Creed we pasted on the door knob hanger.

It is a good time, a good crossing of seasons, this end of summer and beginning of autumn. It is a time of renewal and growth, of anticipation, always remembering the cross worn close to my heart. It is a green time as we move toward the dark winter of Advent and the stunning light of Incarnation. It is a time to point to a large Church Year Wheel and wait for Natalie to name the season, Christmas.

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