Well, when I woke up at 6 this morning, while it was still pretty dark and cloudy, the temperature was 58 degrees. That was a bit of a change from yesterday morning, when the low was 71 degrees – almost a summer-like day. What makes this morning such a drastic change is the fact that the projected high today… will be 58 degrees. Unlike those summer afternoons when you expected the temps to climb, today is typically Fall – plus dark rainclouds gathering, and it’s expected to just be a wet and cool day all around. So much for the weather forecast…
However, something a bit more ominous tells me that we are indeed on the cusp of an entire season change. Granted, today has a full moon (apparently it’s the Harvest Moon, which if you are of a certain age, even the mention of those words will send you into song, about “shine, on…), and in two days, it will be the autumnal equinox, which up here makes it really hard to drive, since all the streets are set up either north-south, or east-west. Especially when you drive east in the morning, or west in the afternoon, the sun sits in front of your windshield like the giant ball of flame it is, staring right at you, reminding you that you are only a puny little speck on the Earth, which is only a puny speck in the solar system.
More than the sun, however, and the fact the daylight hours start to shrink (although they actually have been shrinking since June 20!), we have one more sign of the seasonal change starting to occur: yes – it’s our wimpy ash trees. Even though the elm tree is the state tree here – notwithstanding the fact that they are continuing to be decimated through the Dutch Elm disease, and even though the cottonwood is the fastest growing and pretty prevalent, not to mention all the beautiful white cottonwood seeds that get spread around the middle of summer, the tree that seems to be everywhere is our friend, the ash tree.
I’ve observed the ash tree for a number of years now, given the fact that three of them are planted on our berm. What I’ve noticed is that in the spring, after the elm and the maple and the fruit trees have all produced their leaves, and help us think it’s no longer winter, the ash trees just sort of mosey along, like they are kicking rocks down the dirt road, and eventually – eventually, they bring on the leaves. I mean, you want to remark, “So glad you could join us!” They let the other trees do all the heavy lifting, and then finally, about mid-spring, they turn green.
However, when September comes, and especially when we pass the middle day of the month, you can look out your window and see the maples just hanging on to their leaves like it’s still July – even the flowering crabs stay nice and green. Actually, this can be a problem if we get a very early snowfall, or even some ice, because the leaves become little anvils that weigh down, and sometimes break off the limbs. That’s the trouble that Southerners have in probably January, especially where they grow live oaks, that never drop their leaves, but just break off and snap with the ice storms.
However, we never need to worry about that with our little ash trees, do we? Oh no – the first whiff of fall that comes their way, the first dark day, or a little bit of chill, and they start dropping leaves, like they are flower girls going down the aisle. While everyone else stays nice and green, they are already turning yellow, and if there is a slight breeze, you can watch them – it’s like paratroopers on D-Day – hundreds and thousands of leaves not even pulling the ripcord as they fall. Now, for what I call the mentally twisted, this proposes a wonderful opportunity – because those folks “get” to rake up the falling leaves! Yes, they will spend days and days, standing by their front door with a leaf rake, ready to scamper out and scoop up the falling leaves almost before they hit the grass.
You may guess from my description that I do not fall into that category. At all. Oh, I’ve been given the opportunity to rake leaves before. I’ve raked them, I’ve collected them with a special leaf sweeper, I’ve mowed them up with every kind of mower you can find… but in the end, it’s just a real, lack-of-fun job, and it only leaves you (no pun intended) with a pile that you then have to load up somewhere and take to the leaf dumpster, making sure to leave plenty of little bits of dried up leaf all in the back of your vehicle. Good times.
But, as the other song goes, “The times, they are a-changin’” – soon, very soon we will switch from a/c to just running the fan, to cranking up the furnace on cold October morning, and we will change out the screen on the front door to the storm glass, and Cheri will, when she gets up very early, even turn on the gas fireplace while she does her pre-dawn work before going to the clinic. The cats will even more urgently hunt down rays of sunlight to keep from getting kitty frostbite indoors (that’s anything under 74 degrees, I think). And we will drift more, as we have already started drifting into the seven months where shorts and tee-shirts go away, and jogging pants and sweatshirts become the norm.
And the leaves falling just simply whisper, “Get ready!” It’s coming, but you’ll be ok. Just be sure today, and each day, to give thanks to God for the privilege of living the day, and receiving the blessings that fall even more fully than the leave on an ash tree. Welcome to life…
Word for the day: opprobrium. Pronounced uh-PRAH-bree-um. Sounds Latin, doesn’t it? It comes almost wholesale from the Lat. Opprobrium, which means “disgrace, scandal, or dishonor.” The Latin verb is opprobrare, meaning “to reproach or taunt,” apparently giving action to the reaction of someone doing something disgraceful. The base Latin root is ob, “against” and probrum, “disgrace.” It’s interesting that we must have in our language words that are not only praise and laudatory in nature, but also those that condemn or bring shame. Opprobrium is that which is the cause of shameful conduct, which others condemn and criticize. Of course, the word is rarely used to describe oneself – we would never do such a thing, right?
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.