October

By

[Rebecca Reynolds (aka “Becca”) has quickly become one of my favorite writers. Her creativity has greatly affected my own in the past few months as we’ve been writing songs together. This post from her blog is typical of her depth of seeing and style –Ron Block]

Four months ago, the hillsides tumbled green upon green. Valleys and rises were determined by a narrow spectrum of shadows and brights. More or less, the landscape was monotone, summer lazy, and supple. Confident maple leaves hung in all their twenty-something vigor, acquainted with hearty rain and heated winds, thinking they knew what there was to know.

I remembered being that age, so I didn’t laugh. Instead, I was tender, because October visits us all.

Yesterday, thrown handfuls of yellow leaves hung like stars against a navy green wood. Spots of light clung to branch with newfound brevity, sensing their weakening connection to familiarity. That which has nourished will release. In the glory of dying, in the flame of brilliance, each little golden body realized that it would pass through the womb of falling to the earth.

I beheld contrast upon contrast. Each life manifest its individuality, because this is what happens in the season of death. The green has gone, the true has come. The covering of the corporate is no longer.

Ochre grasses were painted willowy and bowing in their individual lines. There were tufts of silver grey, slices of red, bushes burning like a hearth. White seed pods cast their children upon hope of spring. Shrubs fussed over their holiday decorations, and fifteen stubborn trees held desperately to the last of their lime like thirty-nine-year-old women.

Autumn awakens. Here, depth is defined by variation.

Most of my life, I have walked among a summer’s faith where two-dimensional promises were made by a pleasant Western culture: “Jesus will perfect my marriage. Jesus will make my children wise, and strong, and moral. Jesus will help me obtain financial abundance. Jesus will make me confident, exegetically sound, and able to collect a little flock of admiring disciples. Jesus passes out health in twelve steps and truth in five points. I will walk manicured and full of my own right choices into a ripe old age of comfort.”

Perhaps. Yet often we imply that the Jesus we worship would never allow us a season of uncertainty, or vulnerability, or war. We think he wants us to be fat, full of ourselves, and sure. We know belief tumbling in summergreen strength through valleys and heights, simple and monotone, making promises of happily ever earthly after.

It is a breed of faith easy enough to manage among wealthy people expecting pleasant things. That is why the anomalies are so horrifying: sicknesses, disasters, misunderstandings, prisons of all sorts, Novembers in June. The story shouldn’t go this way, we think. Dyings are such a shock, for the Jesus we have loved is pleasant and easy, and we shop for him until we find him sold our way.

A thousand times I have read the words, but who ever believes them without October skies grown low and grey? You have died. The old has gone. The new has come. The old shell must be sucked of its green juices and tumble down, resigned to the contrast. For there is another world, and it is often winter here when spring there rises.

The veins of fallen leaves read like hymns, yellow-running, red, and holy. They are prophets of a new dimension.

My life is gone.

Behold what is left:

Brilliance.

Profile photo of Rebecca Reynolds

Rebecca Reynolds teaches Classical Rhetoric and Philosophy of Faith in eastern Tennessee, and is a contributor to the Story Warren website. She’s the author and illustrator of the pediatric series From the Medical Files of Dr. Phineas C. Bones and collaborated with Ron Block as the lyricist for his critcally-acclaimed album, Walking Song. She lives in Kingsport, Tennessee, with her husband and three children.


50 Comments

  1. Jaclyn

    Great take on the seasons of trees. I too love watching the woods and seeing what they
    can teach me about their Maker and His ways.

    Hmm… This is a lovely piece to much on slowly. =)

  2. Profile photo of Ron Block

    Ron Block

    @ronblock

    This is anathema to “Things Go Better With Jesus.” In my experience, things often go worse with Jesus, temporally. But if we faithe in him, we are always enabled to deal with it, and we grow as a result. “Life comes from death” is a fundamental but often forgotten message. Without Gethsemane and Calvary there is no empty tomb and no eternal life for the world. If we cling to “my life” and don’t let the seed die, there is no tree of life springing up to eternal life for others.

  3. carrie luke

    So lovely, Rebecca. My daughter and I were discussing writing yesterday and how lots of people today are falling into the trap of writing how they talk. This is a beautiful example of words coming from a place of deep thought and contemplation. To me, it can be the difference between chit chat and communion.

  4. Profile photo of Ron Block

    Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Like, Carrie, I sooo toooootally get what you mean. People just like write how they talk now and don’t think of the way words are put in right orders and like punctuation and everything and they do run-on sentences and put in extra words like that don’t go there. Evn txt talk, u kno? It’s making languages hard to understand because theirs no right grammer.

  5. Sofia

    Thank you for this shaft of shining truth in what has been one of the dreariest of days. Fall–the bright blaze of color–has been my favorite season for a long time, but you’ve made me consider its spiritual import in a way I’ve never considered, and that is a very good thing for me to do today.

  6. Stacy Grubb

    Oh my. My My My. This put into words some abstract obsession I’ve always had with autumn, but didn’t know why. I remember being a teenager and scoffing at people who talked about “the beautiful fall colors.” I live in southern WV. It most certainly is strikingly beautiful here this time of year. But I had a bitterness in me that wanted to call finding beauty in death stupid. All the while, I loved fall as much as, if not more than, the next guy. I wouldn’t admit that to them or me, though. Our fall came a bit early last year (at least, that’s what my memory of it tells me). I finally came clean with myself about my love for fall when I had just pulled out of my driveway and had made it about 100 yards to the stop sign on our painfully backwoods country road and this blood red leaf twirled through the air right in front of me. I nearly ran the stop sign (not that it would’ve totally mattered) because that little leaf kicked up the adrenaline in my heart and there was no denying that in that split second of subconsciousness, I was excited about the changing of the season. It was like I was coming to terms with some real part of me that I’d hid behind a sham. “I really do love fall.” I had to admit that. I hate saying goodbye to summer and hello to winter…but there’s just something about fall that makes a person love it even though, on paper, it’s pretty unlovable. It took 30 years + the time it takes a leaf to fall + 1 more year + the reading of this post for me to honestly see that one little pixel of myself for who and what I am and then just break down and admit to what I saw. My son asked me today what my favorite season is and I told him summer. He told me winter is his favorite and I wondered out loud, “What’s wrong with you? Winter is horrible. It’s the devil.” But there is this little nagging truth that pokes at me because, really, I kind of love the way the snow looks in the mountains when it’s laying on top of all the leafless branches. Anyway, Rebecca, the parallel you draw between the seasons of leaves and the seasons of humans…it just filled in that missing piece for me that has perplexed me since childhood. Lovely work.

  7. Stacy Grubb

    If I wrote the way I talk, I wouldn’t be able to depict the long i in my ramblings. And I’d have to change that sentence to, “If I rote tha wuay I tawk, I tell ewe wot, I woodent be able to dapickt tha lawng iiiiiiii in mah ramblin’s. Shewt.”

  8. Chris

    Wow, that was beautiful. I am a little jealous, because I’ve been trying to express my own thoughts about the beautiful fall lately, and my attempts have fallen far short.

  9. Jim Crotty

    Perfect. Thank you so much. I’m currently preparing to lead and teach a group on fall nature and landscape photography in southeastern Ohio. Your words regarding the true spirit and meaning of the fall transition set the tone beautifully.

  10. Jen

    Stunning. I’ve come to think October is the best month on the calendar, and after reading this, I think I know why.

    I love your blog (even though I don’t always comment), and it makes me so happy to see your writing on The Rabbit Room. Thank you, Becca! (And thank you, Ron!)

  11. Becca

    Ron: I grossly mishandled a contraction today, therefore I must comment with my tail tucked between my legs. Do not think your “LOL” went unobserved, however. I accept it as a due lashing, like a kale and bacon smoothie or the Stanley Brothers.

    Jen: Hello, my friend! Thank you for your kind words. You are dear.

  12. Phernandeau

    Ah. Now I get it. You are a writer! Your response in my last blog really left an impression on me – how gifted you are with words. Thanks for this beautiful piece.

  13. Matthew

    Wonderfully observed and written. The November’s in June are the events where God truly tests us. Is it these that have made me realize that death, no matter how brutal it may seem to us in its many varieties, is God’s way of bringing us home.

  14. MITCHELL

    I keep browsing this site every now and again, but after this article, me thinks I’ll be checking in regularly from now on.

    Thanks, Becca, for articulating this imagery and, honestly, life lesson so beautifully.

  15. EmmaJ

    Thanks for putting these thoughts into lovely words. A theology of suffering rendered in subtle, poetic form that speaks to my heart.

  16. Thaine Norris

    Thank you Becca. Your writing is so beautiful and (like totally) resonates with me.

    I often think that one purpose God had in creating the seasons is to keep us humble. It is a cycle beyond our control and yet intimate to us, all of us, like the need for food and sleep. At times we are tempted to believe that all of life can be summer, or even that today will be all summer, but then we have to stop to eat and drink, and become unconscious for a time. In this we acknowledge our weakness and give thanks for our Provider of strength–in the seasons of the day and of the year.

  17. Janna Barber

    It’s nice to follow your blog and then come here and read this a second time. I was struck the first time, but how quickly I’ve forgotten the richness of your words. Glad I got to see it again, here.

    I have certainly been known to mishandle the Novembers come in June and get mad at the God who didn’t deliver on the satisfaction guarantee sold to me by the Jesusland culture. But I hope my faith is adding on another dimension these days.

    Thanks for your word pictures.

  18. Marissa Hawkins

    Becca, thank you for using words so well. The rythm and sound and images of the whole first half of this drew me in and opened my heart to the truth you clothed in words of beauty. Timely exhortation with true creativity. I hope I can learn to do the same. Very well done!

  19. Chris C

    This is really wonderful, Becca. Very well crafted from your soul. You are an inspiration.

    I’ve been thinking about the seasons lately on how at the end of each season, I long for the next season. I think we all somewhat feel that way, don’t we? At the end of summer (especially here in Texas), we’ve had enough of the heat and we long for the first days when we feel the crispness of autumn. At the end of winter, we long for the first days of warmth and life that spring brings. And, in the seasons of our lives, it seems that sometimes we long for the next season, especially when we’ve had enough of the current one. It reminds me a little of Rich Mullins and how for a season before he died, he was really longing for that eternal Spring.

  20. Eddy Efaw

    I’m a WV native living in Memphis now. My soul often aches for the balance of four distinct and relatively equal seasons. When summer leans into fall here I get an anxiety in my heart that’s hard for me to express. Your post helped me with this expresssion. It’s as if summer just won’t let go gracefully in the Mid-South. The way summer clings on and oppresses here reminds me (now) of a person trying to hold on to their “glorydays” of youth. What’s best is to submit to the seasons of life gracefully and enjoy each of them for what they are and then gracefully move on.

    Great writers express common feelings in an uncommon way.
    Thank you for doing this in your post

    And I agree with Pete. Those last few lines were on point!

  21. Shelley R.

    The craft of language, such a tender and beautiful art. I am welcomed to admire, reflect, and smile by your prose. It’s been awhile since I’ve read anything through here (life sometimes whisks you away….) but I am more than glad that I paused this morning.

  22. Becca

    You folks are so encouraging. Thank you so much for taking time to read this, and also for your words of kindness. ‘Such a tender welcome. I am grateful.

  23. Jen

    Eddy: Yes! I get that feeling too living in Florida. Summer clings so long and fights so hard that when what autumn we get comes, it’s a relief. And far, far too brief. Thank you for naming that. If the seasons are a metaphor for life, then Florida weather must be Botox and fake tans until some time around November. : )

    Becca: Aw, comment #24 made me smile. Hello right back, friend!

  24. Peter B

    Becca! I’ve enjoyed your comments for quite a while; it’s no surprise to find that you’ve been devoting time and effort to the art of writing. Thank you for this deep-running reminder of truth interlaced with beauty.

    From a fellow Rabbithead of Italian descent.

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