Every second is a gift, no matter what the season

This is my column in today’s Greenville News

I am sitting here, looking into the sky and out into the yard. The clouds are hanging low over Tamassee. They are pregnant, but not so much with rain as with change. I can see, in their fullness and varied shades of blue and gray, that Autumn is lurking, and waiting eagerly to descend. Most years, there is a weekend in September that blows in cool, with low humidity and breezes. I mark the end of summer by that event, and often in years past would note it as I drove home from my night-shift in the emergency room. The air through my car windows had a chill, and as I slept off the night’s work, I would revel in warmth, not cool.

This time, while not as cool, it came in August. Frankly, anything less than a heat index of 104 is a delight, but the 80s seem like the 60s when the 100s are the norm. Or something like that. So, looking outside, I see, smell and feel change arriving.

In the bushes the remains of blackberries are shriveled; dried snack food for creatures preparing for the coming cold. We had lots of wild berries this year, but it just seemed to miserable to pick them. Always a pity to see them unused, even if picking them requires a tetanus shot and snake-chaps!

But I also hear the changes of fall. The sound of the insects is one of ending, almost of fatigue, a droning, langorous requiem. Many will die before long though their rich life-spans were marked in weeks, not decades. Their progeny will visit us in the Spring, doubtless believing with rapture that they are the first of their kind in Eden..

I hear something else. I hear silence. Although we home-school, my wife and children are off at a co-op class. The only sounds in the house are the heavy breathing of an aged cat, and the thumping and snarling of two kittens. And of course, my fingers on the keyboard.

My children are doubtless talking in the car, at least two of them asking question after question of their patient mother, who educates them with the passion a bear might defend her cubs. Their minds and characters her provence, having by now saved them from most of the normal physical self-destruction of early childhood.

While I love this new Autumnal silence that lets me write, I crave distraction in the form of the touch, hugs, laughter, requests and ideas of my kids. The noise is soothing as chamber music to me. Parenting, when one loves deeply, teaches the parent to love all of the frantic acitivty and madness of parenting. The quiet reminds me that I am addicted to my children.

And of course, to my lovely, thriving wife Jan. She distracts me as well, but in a more ordered and gentle way. I want to talk with her, to laugh with her and to work with her in ordering our daily lives. She is a master at that. Where I am chaos, she is a plan. Where I am idea, she is implementation.

Today Autumn reminds me that though Summer is waning, hope is alive even in the darkening skies and turning trees. But for more reasons than nature. Jan is on the other side of radiation and chemotherapy for the cancer that threatened her, and by default threatened all of us, last winter. In fact, it probably began (unbeknownst to us) last Autumn. She also is past the pulmonary embolus that followed all of it one March morning, and left the physician in me completely terrified.

We are enjoying the end of summer and ready for fall because, despite summer’s heat, bugs and endless activity, the preceeding winter was so cold. It chilled our bodies with weather and our hearts with disease and trouble. The passage of time is therefore a beautiful counterpoint to the way time stood still so often, in surgery suites, waiting rooms and even our own home as our treasured wife and mother lay ill.

In fact, the low clouds, the changes, even the start of school remind us, with thanksgiving to God above, that as in Psalm 30:5, ‘weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.’ A year has passed, and all is well. The earth turns and tilts from the Sun. But we are all still here, together. Every second a gift, whatever the season.

Thank you for your fervent prayers.

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