And so we turn the calendar page and begin a new month. The word, “September” comes from the Latin, septem, which is “seven.” That makes sense, since September is the ninth month of the year… history gives us a bit of a different perspective. When the Roman calendar was formed (which is pretty significant to move to months, instead of seasons), it contained 10 months: starting in March, named after the god of war, Mars, then April, from the word “second” in Latin, then May, named after the earth goddess, Maia, then June, from Juno, queen of the gods. Next you had Quintillis and Sixtillia, the fifth and sixth months, although they were renamed in honor of two famous Romans, Julius and Augustus Caesar – July and August; that brought us to the seventh month, Septem, and the eighth, ninth and tenth months, Octo, Novem and Decem. With only ten months, they certainly would have been much longer, with 59 days distributed among the ten, but a later change was made, with two months added. January also took on the position of the first month instead of March, as the god Janus had two faces, that looked both backwards and forwards. Februa was the feast of purification, and so the 12th and final month was named February.
Even though September is the 7th or 9th month, for most of us, it becomes a pivotal month of change. In the rural areas, normally September signified that most of the harvest, at least of wheat, had been taken in, and so the kids on the farms could be freed to go to school. Yippee. Depending on your social standing, September up here in the north means it’s time to close up the cabins that were the summer refuge since May and the fishing opener, and perhaps to start dreaming of a thick enough ice level to put the houses out in the winter for ice fishing. Again, up here, the plants that were so pretty around Mother’s Day have now grown tired, and soon will be compost. Some folks will spend money to buy a few mum plants to have color into October, but it seems a waste of time to buy a plant that will only last about 6 weeks or less before the first freeze.
The birds have gone through their rotation of nests in the huge spruce in our backyard. The blackbirds are first in the spring, with their squawking and egg stealing, then come the robins, and the sparrows and the finches and the other song birds, and then the brainless mourning doves and then a few more sparrows, but by September, they have all bought tickets for the south. We can tell it’s all changing, because the Canadian Geese who have spent the summer making a mess on the walk paths by the ponds and sloughs in town are getting fidgety, and make more frequent flights over the house, as they prepare to make formation as they too head south.
The temperature changed on a dime this year. Two weeks ago, we sweated with the 90s, and later this week, a few days will not climb out of the 60s. That, coupled with some good rains, means that this September will be full of both flies and mosquitoes. Sort of like the plagues of Egypt. Other things change quickly as well. The appearance at least is that August is a leisure month, with not a lot on the calendar. We make up for it in September, however, as school starts, and family schedules all change, and fall sports crank up, and churches up here in the north, which were quiet in the summer, since everyone is at the lake, post the Sunday after Labor Day as “homecoming,” or “rally” Sunday, with Sunday school, and youth groups, and an added worship service perhaps, and Bible studies and choirs and the rest of the cranked up schedule moves us quickly into Fall, and preparing for the first big snowfall…
I will confess that for most of my life, I have held a distinct dislike for September. My life would always, it seemed, get staple gunned to a calendar. With school, five days of the week were structured with meals at certain times, homework to be done, bedtimes unnaturally enforce, and the “lazy, hazy, crazy” days of summer were shut up in the closet with the swimsuits and flip flops. As an adult, at least for the last four decades, September meant meetings and appointments and classes to teach and an unending to-do list as a pastor. Even when I went to serve on the conference level, and as a superintendent, there were special meetings with pastors, and charge conferences, which are the annual meetings for the churches and other crankiness and dis-ease that seemed to arise with Fall. Even now, it takes very little for me to remember, and to recreate the underlying sense of pressure and stress and anxiety in working to get an enormous job done.
When I woke up this morning, however, there was a different change in the season. This September, for perhaps the first time since I went to first grade at age 5, is strangely quiet. I looked at my things to get done this month, and my calendar says I have to pay my estimated taxes on September 15. That’s it. No meetings out of town, no hotel reservations, no flights, no days with three meals eaten in restaurants. I’m going to grill steaks tonight. On a Tuesday! Sure, I have things I can and will do, but at my choosing. The external yoke and bit, and halter are not being placed on my life. I’m retired, and especially with the ongoing pandemic, to not have to figure out how to navigate through it all with meetings and such is a wonderful realization.
I expect it may take me until October to get acquainted with a non-frantic Fall. Maybe I will try to focus on the beauty of this changing season, instead of what it has always meant for my workload. It could be nice. It very well could become my favorite season of the year… probably not, but maybe no longer the worst…
Word of the day: tellurian. Pronounced tell-OOR-ee-un, it’s just another option for talking about us humans. The Latin word, tellus, means “earth,” and so a tellurian is a being that exists on the soil of this world. That’s you and me. It’s kind of a highfalutin word, when you want to be all kind of snooty. By the way, “highfalutin” is a slang word that probably came from high, and the verb form of “flute” – falutin. When you are acting highfalutin, it’s as if you are playing some fancy flute with really notes. So you get two words for the
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.