This week’s meditation has been prepared for us by Arline Griffiths of St John’s, Llandudno. Thank you. Arline.
One day at the end of September, as I went out into the garden, I was faced with the sight of a huge daddy-longlegs, a magnificent specimen but, for me, significant because it was the first of the season. Later that same day, as I ducked under the pear tree to put something in the compost bin, a cob-web draped itself across my face. Yes, I thought, it really is autumn!
Autumn, “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”: many of us will be familiar with Keats’ beautiful poem. But wait a minute, his picture does not tally with my idea of autumn. For me, autumn is regular visits to Bodnant to check on the progress of the developing amazing spectrum of colours in the Maple Grove and each time being struck by the proliferation of other leaf colours too; the golden birches, the russet beeches and the unexpected vivid red leaf lurking on a shrub; walking through the arboretum enjoying the gentle rain of the confetti leaves drifting lazily down from the canopy as the crisp dried leave s crunch beneath my feet and watching the squirrels busily scurrying about burying nuts for the lean time – although they will forget where they put a lot of them. But further reflection told me that my memory was as equally at fault as was Keats’. Both scenes are idealistic; an idyllic amalgamation of all the best bits stored in our memory.
I turned again to reread the poem: yes, I could resonate with the sweet kernels plumping the hazel shells (ready for the squirrels), the bees, still busy on the last, late flowers and ”the redbreast whistling from a garden croft”, yet so much seems to have changed! And yet I also have vivid memories of the “wailful choir (of) small gnats mourn(ing) among the river sallows,” but these were common sights and sounds among the meres, dew-ponds and sluggish Bridgewater Canal of my early days. And no doubt they are still to be seen there, though not in breezy Llandudno with its restless waters. So, too, the “swallows twitter(ing)” as they gathered on the telephone wires. Telephone wires? Do we still have telephone wires for them to gather on? Modern technology has brought a lot of changes, but the swallows still gather somewhere for their annual migration, which continues to take place. But surely, these days the harvests of fruit and cereal crops are finished by the end of September and the “warm days they think will never cease” are a distant memory? – if they ever existed. Perhaps so, but the distressing, man-madel modern climate change apart , there have been variations in weather patterns recorded throughout the ages.
Essentially, all these aspects of autumn are still present somewhere in the world. Dependent on geography or local climatic conditions they can still be found, and always will be, for they are a part of God’s perfect, eternal plan. During autumn the harvests will always be brought in, the leaves change colour and fall to the ground, the squirrels hide their nuts and the annual migrations take place. Then everything will gradually close down ready for the hibernation of winter. All will look sombre, bleak even, and a hush will fall over the land. Yet the season has a certain majestic beauty of its own and there is still a great deal of activity taking place. In their snug winter quarters the hibernating animals, replete from their autumn feeding frenzy, are fast asleep, living on the energy from the food they have eaten. Underground, even when the earth is locked in frost or clothed in snow, the dormant seeds and bulbs are safe and warm also, being nourished by the nutrients supplied by the rotting fallen leaves while waiting for their hour to come. Waiting: that surely is the key word for the season, for us Christians too as we await the coming into the world of the promised Saviour…but that is a subject for another meditation.
Before too long there will be a faint, almost indiscernible, change in the quality of the light, a slight, almost unnoticeable rise in the temperature. Then shoots, including those from the nuts forgotten by the squirrels, will start to appear in the fields, woods and gardens, and soon the trees will start to produce their spring foliage of fresh, verdant green and lambs and baby rabbits to appear in the fields. Soon the world will again be clothed in the copious, rich magnificence of its summer array and the annual cycle will continue.
The 14th century mystic, Julian of Norwich recognised this when she looked at the hazel nut in the palm of her hand and saw three things: that God made it, God loves it and God saves it. And how can we doubt that it will be so? In Genesis 9 vv 21b and 22, God says in his heart, “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures as I have done.
As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat,
summer and winter,
day and night
will never cease.”
Then he repeated his promise to Noah in the form of a covenant, and placed “his bow in the sky” as a constant sign of this.
As the theme of this year’s Prayer Handbook is “The Earth is the Lord’s”, I felt that that was the place to find my closing prayer, so in faith I turned to Day 21 (today, when this is posted) and there it was, provided by Paul Davis, Lancashire District Chair:
Gracious God, creator of all, we thank you for the endless cycle of nature through the changing seasons that mark our days.
Forgive us when we are ungrateful for all you have given us in this world and for our selfish use of resources, causing others to suffer. May we recognise how fragile this planet is and understand the implications of our choices.
Help us to respect creation and tread lightly so that we do little harm to your precious world and our neighbours. May our lives reflect your creative love. Amen.