One of the greatest lessons children can teach us is to hold two very divergent ideas in our mind and hearts at the same time. It may just be a matter of days after their birth before we are holding the most precious thing we have ever seen at arms length while contemplating the extreme mess of diaper, clothes, and blankets that needs to be cleaned up. Or there is non-stop crying that wears on our sleep-weary ears and nerves from the perfectly beautiful baby we brought home.
This past week was hot and muggy with uncomfortable nights and air quality alerts that tightened my airways with ozone. Summer’s bad qualities. But it looked like Fall. The Ash trees were mostly all yellow and dropping leaves. The Sumac trees had turned showstopping crimson and scarlet. The Linden trees were quickly turning lemon-colored with a circular blanket of leaves covering the green grass underneath them. So is it Fall or Summer?
Our neighbor’s Buckeye trees glowed golden with leaves and spiny seed capsules that encase the ‘eyed’ dark brown seed.
Fall harvesting by the birds has begun. A juvenile Cardinal plucked a seed from a nearby tree—unfortunately it was a seed from the dreadful Buckthorn! Is Buckthorn good for food or a worthless tree?
Virginia Creeper vines are turning red, going from camouflage to conspicuous.
Also conspicuous in the morning dew was a funnel weaver spider’s sheet web. Most likely a grass spider, she hid herself in the entrance of the funnel to wait for a tasty insect to stumble upon her web. Are spiders terrible pests or architectural geniuses?
Drying seeds of Queen Anne’s Lace leaned over against the background of fall-colored Sumac.
The smallest Hostas are just now blooming, fresh and summer-like…
…while the sun-kissed Maple trees are beginning to show their colors.
We are a society based on labeling. The calendar says it is still Summer and will be Fall on Friday; the meteorologists say it was Fall on September 1st. If we had no way of orderly keeping track of days, what would it be called? Perhaps it would not be named at all. Often labeling comes with black and white thinking, with opposite and extreme judgments—good or bad, right or wrong, all or nothing. We run into a web of tangled trouble when we try to determine who has the ‘right’ to decide what is right or wrong. Does the person who is deathly afraid of spiders get to determine a spider’s worth or does an entomologist? Does a person who is trying to eradicate Buckthorn from his property have the right to determine its value or does the person who loves it for a privacy hedge? I believe black and white thinking are like two banks of a river, and the river is the gray area. We can be the sturdy boats with thick ropes and strong oars and sails that navigate the River of Life. At times it is imperative for us to tie up to one of the two banks—for order in a society or for taking care of our personal space. But most of the time we are moving through life on the gray River, and we must hold two very divergent ideas in our thoughts and hearts with compassion. Our child who just made a huge mess is our beloved. The dreadful Buckthorn provides food for the birds. The scary spider or bat eats many destructive insects, and on and on it goes. Many people live on one of the two banks, like I used to—it is familiar and safe there, but Life passes by. We call out with disdain or hope to the people on the River—“We know the answer!” And while the River at times can be dangerous and fast-moving or stagnant and stale, most of the time it is life-giving, refreshing, cleansing, and invigorating. Through rough waters and smooth sailing, may we navigate well, anticipate the rocks and snags, learn what we need to learn, look to both horizons, and enjoy the unexpected treasures around the bend.