October ---- – the elixir of autumn! Of course, we have had snow in October; not often, but I remember one or two snowy Halloweens, and while Kerm was still with Cooperative Extension, there was always a inter-county horse show on Columbus Day weekend. More often than not, weather was yucky sometimes to the point of snow showers. The horses wouldn’t be too happy but the kids were fine. It takes quite a lot of weather to dampen the spirits of horse-riding teens. But in my personal view of October, I still visualize blue skies, cool mornings, aromatic scents of drying herbs, scuffing through fallen leaves and a gentle sunshine that warms the bones.
Warming the bones is always good, but so is warming the heart. We recently stayed with a branch of our family that we hadn’t seen in quite a while. This was an opportunity to catch up with what everyone is doing ---- which was a lot! One niece is a new doctor, doing her residency and discovering what parts of health care she will or will not choose. Another new doctor (PhD-doctor) was balancing home with teaching college students, and working with parents and kiddies in early intervention. Another who has little time for smelling the roses just passed her Boards as an RN. Somehow, she still manages to do some massage work and to send out a lovely reflection on the Equinox. Another is working on NASA projects in areas that I never considered NASA doing. Our documentary film-maker was taking a break before going to his next job in the Pacific northwest. In addition, everyone there was working as a team to ready a house for their parents/grandparents ----returnees from Montana, where they have lived for decades. The house was coming alive with rooms about to be freshly-painted, measuring spaces for furniture, and a beautiful garden was emerging from years of neglect. I was so impressed with the love, the hard labor and the laughter that, mixed all together, provided the framework for a fine family experience. We are grateful for the time spent with them.
Here is a poignant bit of writing that must pull a bit at anyone’s heart-strings. “Late that night, I held an atlas in my lap, ran my fingers across the whole world and whispered, ‘where does it hurt?’ It whispered back: ‘everywhere --- everywhere --- everywhere.’”* We may be so inured to the evening news that we no longer shudder at the suffering of people across the globe ---- but ---- if we allow ourselves to really listen, to look into the eyes of people as they talk to reporters ----- to imagine one’s self in those situations --- then we can’t help but feel the hurt, the pain, the desperation. Because we are so inundated with difficult and immediate situations, we are often flooded with a sense of frustration and helplessness. This, I think, causes us to tamp down our emotions. What can we ---- one person ---- do? Will anything one person does change the world a whit? We tend to forget how small things add up; that every little bit helps, and leads to a kinder world.
I recently spoke with a friend who said that one of her family members was feeling led to leave her current work, to provide health care where people desperately need it. In our family, we have a missionary couple who have created orphanages and schools, have helped dig wells, breed cattle, and have found lucrative work for women who had been running illegal stills to survive. They combine their desire to share the love of God with the very practical skills and assistance that people in Kenya, Tanzania and other countries in Africa need desperately. In our own country, when floods or other disasters occur, people from all over run to help. Closer to home --- in our own community ---- the local Food Cupboard has been a life-saver for those who have lost jobs or who are unable, for whatever reason, to make ends meet. Also, the driving to medical appointments service of INSPIRE helps mitigate the lack of rural transportation. We are a small community, and when there is a need, someone hears about it and arranges help. It may seem as though we are applying mere bandages to large wounds, but each bit of assistance contributes to healing the whole.
So far, none of our efforts have wiped out the ills of the world. But I am remembering the story about the young person who went along the beach, tossing the stranded star fish back into the water. When it was suggested that his efforts didn’t make a difference compared to the numbers of starfish washed ashore, he simply replied: “it makes a difference to this one,” and went on tossing star fish back into the ocean. Even if the only thing some of us can do is to write an encouraging note, share a meal or pray for someone, it creates a vibe that may echo out into infinity. So, we need to follow our hearts. Small bits of kindness have an immense impact and a cumulative effect, even if we don’t see it right away. “I want to change the world,” said Tiny Dragon. “Start with the next person who needs your help,” said Big Panda.”** Emily Dickinson*** expressed this well: “If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not have lived in vain. If I can save one life the aching, or cool one pain, or help one fainting robin into his nest again, I shall not have lived in vain.” We are responsible to do only what we can do --- whether that happens to be across the seas or next door. But doing something surely beats not participating at all. We need to join hands in service to each other.
After my last essay went out --- with the bit about anxiety --- a recipient sent me a clip of the old Hee-Haw show with the four guys singing “Gloom, despair, and agony on me……deep dark depression, excessive misery…….” She suggested we substitute “anxiety” for “agony” and we could all sing it together. 😊 This brings up a very good point --- laughter. We can probably assume that if we find life just too, too serious ---- if we’ve abandoned laughter---- we’ve lost part of what makes life worth living. I think God loves laughter; a Creator must have a sense of humor to have imagined the giraffe, the sloth, a kitten, a duck………” From troubles of the world, I turn to ducks, beautiful, comic things……When God had finished the stars and whirls of colored suns, He turned His mind from big things to fashion little ones……..beautiful things (like dawns) He made…… and then He made the comical ones in case the minds of men should stiffen and become dull, humorless and glum, and so forgetful of their Maker be as to take even themselves – quite seriously……Caterpillars and cats are lively and excellent puns. All God’s jokes are good, even the practical ones. And as for the duck, I think God must have smiled a bit, seeing those bright eyes blink on the day He fashioned it. And He’s probably laughing still at the sound that came out of its bill!” ****
One of the delights of being in the S-VE community are the creative people who live here. Over the years we have provided much fun ---- for ourselves and for others ---- with our variety shows, dinner-theater, plays and skits (often sponsored by “All Wet Productions”). There was the DMV skit --- a perennial joy ---- for anyone who has languished in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles. And “Chicks and Pits” --- a play that was a play on words for the chicken farm industry that used to be here in Spencer and Van Etten, and the grape industry not too far away. Then the “Throw him out of the boat” song for our local Jonah, in “Whale of a Tail”. So many evenings full of laughter! When Spencer Singers assembled a few weeks ago to rehearse for the first time in two years we were not great!! Our voices went hither and yon and there was little strength in our musical output. However, we could still laugh about it even as we hope and pray our voices return with practice. It is a fine balancing act to take life seriously enough but to maintain our joie de vivre.
Right now, October is here and we know that the days will fly by. Suddenly we will be wearing heavy coats, boots and maybe even mittens. Ghosts on the lawn for Halloween will morph into Thanksgiving decorations and all too soon we’ll be scheduling in Christmas concerts and concocting fruit cakes. I like these few lines that speak of this time: “Just after the death of the flowers, and before they are buried in snow, there comes a festival season, when nature is all aglow.”***** While autumn is still with us, let’s enjoy it, celebrate it, soak up the glow and share our enjoyment with each other. As we’ve discovered, nothing is quite so wonderful as being with friends or family, or both, and being grateful for the time together. And if the sky is blue and the sunshine mellow, that is an additional reason for thanks.
Carol may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Warsan Shire --- British writer, poet, editor and teacher, born in Kenya of Somali parents. In 2013 she was awarded the inaugural Brunel University African Poetry Prize.
**James Norbury.com ---American writer and cartoonist. He writes about subjects he loves and hopes to create a love for nature in his readers. He is a Zoologist as well as writer.
***Emily Dickinson ---American poet, who was little known during her lifetime, but is now considered one of our foremost poets. 1830-1886.
**** Frederick William Harvey --- excerpts from “Ducks”. British poet, writer of essays and short stories, lawyer. He may be best known for the poems he wrote in WWI prisoner-of-war camps and sent them back to England. 1888-1957.
*****Emeline B. Smith ---American writer. 1869-1944