A Prelude to Autumn

Beyond, the harvest hills were basking in an amber sunset radiance, under a pale, aerial sky of rose and blue. The distant spruce groves were burnished bronze, and their long shadows barred the upland meadows. But around them a little wind sang among the fir tassels, and in it there was the note of autumn.

Anne of the Island, Ch. 2

“I have organized the freezer, killed a fly and a mosquito, and taught children,” I told Y on Wednesday morning. If there was a faint grin of triumph in my words, it stemmed mostly from the patient hunt of ornery insects. My mother’s zeal for catching biting bugs is legendary, especially when small folk are involved, and a streak of it apparently runs in my blood.

The “note of autumn” has begun to make itself softly heard here. The windows can be kept open through the day now, and when I step out into our bit of earth in the evenings, the chilled air and fading light touch everything with a singular beauty. White and purple alyssum flowers stand out like tiny stars in the deepening shadows. I’ve paused to watch the sun’s last ray illuminate the golden heart of the corner tree, drawn into thoughts of dryads and mallorn leaves.

Along the western fence the garden, too, is maturing; every member of our family is enthralled by the miniature size of young bell peppers and the reddening blush of the first tomato. We may only get a small harvest this year, but oh — how we’ve enjoyed the sights and small visitors to the backyard this summer. Hardly a meal has gone by without little feet running to the glass door to greet a praying mantis or a ladybug, or exclaim over a spider preparing to pounce on a moth, or follow the antics of cheery red-waistcoated robins.

alyssum (1)





Indoors, the cooler days have brought us a new routine of lessons and conversations over a growing stack of books. We’re delighting in this change far more than I thought we would, learning phonograms and number bonds, making our acquaintance with stories that are swiftly becoming favored friends.

To be sure, we have our blank moments when not a single thought more can be urged through the mental mill(!), but it’s impossible not to smile at the sight of my little pupils doing jumping jacks for a welcome break, and pinching their eyes shut to imagine a walk on the seashore.



I have mixed feelings about seeing this summer go. I’m not quite ready for frosty mornings or the progressive brown crisping of a barren landscape yet, but there are undeniably lovely things to look forward to in the months ahead: possible visits from dear old friends, meetings with some of the most inspiring creatives I’m privileged to know, fresh and untrodden channels of grace. I am one of a certain set for whom future plans ease the bittersweet ebb of the present, and this is most evident at the change of seasons. Autumn in particular tends to bring on a merry fit of anticipation. 

“We can hunt aspen in the mountains this year!” I said to Y last week. The girls overheard, and have been bringing in tiny foretokens each time they play in the yard.


Through all these things, we’re easing into Autumn, finding a rhythm in the clink of silverware sorted by little hands and the leafing of hundreds of pages. We are playing a prelude of sorts, adding plans and trying new patterns, and hoping in the end to make a richly harmonious suite out of this home — this way station of His kingdom.

I feel this way about writing as well, lately; thread by thread and line by line, some cherished hopes are taking shape on the page. I have tentative dreams for another October series, and for a longer term project that’s grown quietly in the realm of possibility (but which needs some nurturing yet). But most of all — I’m learning to work my present mercies together with the memories I already hold, weaving them (however coarsely) into invitations to come glimpse the beauty and the rest found wherever Christ dwells.

For if there’s one thing this embattled summer made clear, it’s the unfailingly deliberate and steadfast love of God, and my awareness of it. After our brief and subdued valley retreat, I returned to home and garden to find a bright pink petunia nodding impishly at me behind a bush, of a color and kind I had definitely not planted, in soil that had been thoroughly overturned in earlier months. A hummingbird has graced our garden nearly every day for the past three weeks, with a music of movement that captivates us until, with deep breaths all around, we watch it soar out of sight.

And one Sunday recently, I stood in the back row barely able to sing the words of the last worship song because they were so piercingly true of what was going on in my life and heart, and to sing it was to declare it was true: that He is sufficient, and that I have more desperate and yet jubilant need of Him than ever before. I wrote two friends to tell them how beautiful I’d found the words of the bridge. One texted back to say, “Not to make too much of anything, but we sang this–just the bridge, too–at church today.” The other had been babysitting earlier in the day and had, as it turns out, sung the song over and over at the piano. The three of us span the country currently, but tears stood in all our eyes at the mercy that allowed us to share a connection in the midst of grief and heartache and temptations to despair.

These are such small gifts, perhaps even inconsequential to another’s eye, but to this soul hungry for the daily manna of peace, they’ve been all the more precious for their unobtrusive directness. He who is Sovereign remembers us. The overtures of His love remind me that there are events this Autumn that I will not have pencilled in (little hands reaching up for comfort in the dark of a fevered night — sundry machines that break down — doubt), but in which there will be deep mercy nonetheless — mercy full and sweeping to break over the sandcastles of my plans.

It may be an Autumn of majestic hues or the brittle rattle of frostbitten leaves, but I am content to leave my peace and joy in the keeping of my Father, in whose set seasons are woven the unfading story of promise and resurrection. For this prelude I offer is His song; He holds the piece and the player.

He knows how to arrange both to have the strongest and sweetest effect.


Autumn in Virginia, 2008

Happy Autumn, friends!

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