Signs of the changing season are all around now. At first the signs were subtle, but over the last three weeks, they have become blatant reminders that fall will soon dissolve into winter.
First, it was the changing colors of the leaves. We had an unusually dry summer, almost a full-blown drought. The grass was dry, and the rivers and creeks were exceptionally low. Due to the lack of rain, I feared the leaves would lose the reds and the orange tints. Much to my surprise, the landscapes are covered in rusts, reds, golden yellows, and orange. Every autumn color is on a momentary display, gracing the countryside with vibrant beauty.
The rains didn’t arrive until late October, showers would blow in late in the evenings and continue into the night. But by morning, the clouds would part and let the sunshine through. The birds had to hurry to take their baths and get a fresh drink before the puddles dried up. Then, come evening again, the skies would cloud over, and the pattern would repeat. That lasted for almost two full weeks.
After that, the rain just came. All night and all day. Initially, the rain seemed warm, but every day seemed to get a little colder. Over the course of those ten days, we dropped from seventy-degree days to temperatures in the fifties. I switched my summer wardrobe with my warmer clothes.
The rain moved on to the east, leaving the rivers full to the brim, and the creeks bubbling under the old wooden bridges of Madison County. I’m always surprised how quickly the rivers fill after a long, dry season. All summer we passed over the interstate bridges to see long sandbars stretching across the Raccoon River. But now, the sandbars are well beneath the surface of the water.
There is an assurance that comes with late season rains. All summer we listened to the weather reports, hoping a chance of rain would turn into an overnight shower. As summer faded into fall, we feared the drought would persist into winter, wreaking havoc with moisture levels for spring crops, recreational activities, and drinking water supplies.
All the while we watched the river levels diminish. We prayed for rain for the crops, the reservoirs, and the farmers. We hoped. Yesterday we passed over the Raccoon River bridge and realized those prayers have been answered. It is rare the water levels are so high going into winter. The pastures are as green as springtime even though most of the trees have now dropped all of their leaves.
Winter will come and we will hunker down for a few months. At first, we will be content to stay inside and watch the snow fall through the window. But by mid-January, we will be anxious for the snow to melt.
It’s funny how our lives ebb and flow with the seasons. I was born and raised in this midwestern country, so the change of seasons is engrained into my being. There is a certain rhythm, a beat that syncs with my heart as we pass from winter into spring, from spring into summer which drifts into fall. I depend on that rhythm to give me balance. Every season brings a different purpose that corresponds to the limitations of heat and cold, light, and dark, humidity and the lack thereof.
Dinner conversation tonight centered around the end of daylight savings time coming up this weekend. Darkness will fall upon us starting around five o’clock in the afternoon, making our days seem so short and our evenings all that much longer. We will turn on the lights earlier and go to bed earlier. We will adjust our schedules to the amount or lack of daylight. And we will count down until mid-December when the days begin to lengthen again.
For four decades my grandmother wrote me a letter every Tuesday. It would arrive in my mailbox on Friday or Saturday. There were times that letter was my lifeline to home. I kept many of the letters she wrote to me, and she kept every single letter I ever wrote back. Those letters reflect the same ebb and flow of changing seasons I have come to depend upon.
Grandma captured every season in her letters. Springtime in Iowa boasted baby calves, kittens, and piglets, the return of the robins and meadowlarks, the preparation of the soil for crops, and all the early spring flowers like crocus, tulips, and hyacinth. Summer brought gardens, shade trees, porch swings, and the first cutting of hay. Late summer was the return to school, canning, pickling, and freezing produce from the garden. And then Grandma would write about the colors changing in the trees, how the corn and beans would begin to dry in the fields, and the completion of harvest. Autumn. Starting around Thanksgiving every year, Grandma would begin to tell me how many days were left until they started getting longer again. Winter solstice. Minute by minute, the sun would shine a little longer until winter was over.
The ebb and flow—it carries us, heals us, and grounds us. The change of seasons offers a change of perspective, a chance to rest, and an opportunity to start fresh. Even though we change with the seasons, the rhythm of life keeps a steady beat that connects us to our past and propels us toward our future. In the grand scheme of things, it is the ebb and flow that is constant. Everything else is in flux. We can choose to move within the season or fight against it. That one decision determines our mindset, our emotional balance, and our spiritual awareness.
Time passes all too quickly.
Every season leaves a divine imprint on our hearts if we stay open.
The ebb and flow take us back and pushes us forward in time.