“Now each day is an extra gift. An extra day in which I may gain some new understanding, see a beauty, feel love…Who knows, it may matter deeply how we end so mysterious a thing as living…I’ve taken a long time to feel it as very truth: The last years may matter most.” -Florida Scott Maxwell, The Measure
Minnesota in the fall is a cinema of changing landscapes. Official autumn is nearly upon us, and we’re painfully aware that another summer passed us by without slowing down one jot. I don’t mind it; hot and humid is not my cup of tea, and I don’t live on a lake any more to find some relief in the chilly waters. But it is an annual loss that bewilders those who do love it. I offer my condolences and wait for evidence that the advent of the new season is just around the bend.
It hasn’t been slow in coming this year.
As I drove the 21 miles north last Sunday to the town where I’ve been preaching for the past year, there was just enough change in the landscape to catch my attention. That’s saying something, because when I drive and traffic is light, I can easily be lost in my thoughts and not even notice what is outside my van. I’m not easily drawn outside this introvert spirit to see the details of my world. But that day, gold showed up.
It was just a touch, but visible enough to catch my eye. Two huge, sprawling trees of dark green each had circular patches of color toward the top where nature had touched them with her golden finger – bling! Bling! I laughed out loud. The unexpected had shown up, and I now knew that just two small specks of gold in 21 miles were the trailer for what lies just around the bend.
And just around the bend, there it was again! Bling! More gold – circles of gold among the deep greens of a huge, orderly corn field that spread over a hill. It’s going to be a later harvest than usual for many farmers because of the wet spring and summer that we’ve had, but there it was. Getting ready for what will lie ahead: the browning and drying for the rich harvest that lies ahead in autumn.
And that was it. I was now primed, and I kept looking for more. But this was to be a brief introduction that day. Just a small one.
But I hadn’t missed it! On another younger day, I might have, but not today.
My spirit grew light, and I know that my eyes were shining in that way that meant that I have not been indifferent to the physical world about me on this day. I have spent far too much time doing just that in my life.
Three times as many people came to church that day, compared to the week before. Is there something about the movement of this time that said that this was the time to begin to settle in? I don’t know. I do know that there was a renewed air of lightheartedness and gratitude that we shared this past Sunday. And I made sure to check with Arnold about riding in that “buddy seat” on his son’s combine when the bean harvest comes in October.
The last years may matter the most? I think Florida Maxwell had something there. I may have noticed the gold touches when I was younger, but I’m pretty sure that they didn’t touch my heart and my imagination quite so deeply as they did that morning.
Life has taken on a new kind of excitement. Not one that is high; it’s one that lies deep. It’s a “Yes” more than a “Rah! rah!” The kind of excitement that can matter most. The kind that lasts for more than a moment or two.
It’s one of those graces of elderhood.
And I’m very okay with that.