Since the age of five, my spirit has soared each September with the onset of the school year. I loved school, whether kindergarten just up the street or Goshen College in Indiana. Each September I anticipated a new teacher, a new classroom, and old and new classmates. At the same time I looked forward to my favorite season, with its cooler weather and coloured leaves.
After college I worked in a bookstore for ten years. Fall signaled more customers and exciting new book releases. Eventually I served as a pastor and an interim pastor. Every one of those settings had a clear fall startup, and I helped foster the congregation’s renewed energy and the startup of programs.
In my early retirement years I did considerable contract work, maintained a spiritual direction practice, and volunteered all over the place. Most of those settings also had a distinct fall startup, perhaps conditioned by the Canadian full embrace of our short summer.
In short, the fall startup has always energized me.
So here I am in fall 2018, almost fully retired, with some limitations of body, mind and (especially) energy. Suddenly I realize I am no longer helping to shape a fall startup anywhere! So, what to do with those days immediately after Labour Day?
Newly retired teachers have told me they deliberately go on vacation right after Labour Day. So we followed their example and headed to our favorite early summer vacation spot – Colpoys Bay at the base of Ontario’s Bruce Peninsula.
We observed the residents of Wiarton and Lions Head relaxing into their fall routines as they took their town back from the tourists. In the Tim Horton’s line at 6:00 in the morning, people greeted each other by name. In a “down home” diner in Lions Head, they joked loudly with each other between tables. Our walk down the main street of Wiarton with ice cream cones from Lloyd’s Smoke Shop elicited smiles and even remarks from local passersby.
We took a side trip to the Oliphant Fen, eager to see what bloomed there in September. Our eyes took in nothing spectacular. We saw no Lady Slipper orchids, but rather a few Smaller Fringed Gentians and various kinds of little yellow flowers.
Back in Wiarton, we watched a muted sunset, with few clouds in the sky. The bay was as calm as we’ve ever experienced it. Apparently nature took those days after Labour Day to catch its breath, along with the locals.
The energy we felt came from the road equipment drivers of the Township of Georgian Bluffs, busily resurfacing a cottage road previously full of potholes. We thought half the equipment of the township must be there – a wood chipper, a roller, a water truck, a scraper, a digger and several dump trucks.
We arrived home after three detours around small towns where bridges were being replaced. A wonderful sunset greeted us Saturday night as we walked in Rockway Gardens across the street, reminding us of the pleasures of nature right at home.
Sunday morning I read the church bulletin online, as I usually do in preparing for the service. Energy oozed out of that bulletin. What will it be like – I wondered – to participate in that energy without having contributed to creating or preparing for it. “Will I feel a part of things?” I asked myself with trepidation.
At church that morning, our “first hour” discussion about some potential changes to the church program was well attended, well planned, lively and good-spirited. Then the service began with enthusiastic singing. Worship leader Betti Erb invited God to “take our fall energies and turn them into the liveliness of possibilities.”
Ah yes, “the liveliness of possibilities.” I like that turn of phrase. As Betti prayed, I realized I can happily participate in relaxed liveliness where the congregation together creates the possibilities, with good prompting by leaders other than myself.
And from the residents of Wiarton, I glimpsed a new kind of fall startup – being energized as I relaxed into the fall routine, focusing on relationships.
Questions for Reflection:
- What has the turn towards fall meant for you over the years?
- How do you celebrate the energy of fall in your life currently?
- What – if anything – does “relaxed liveliness” mean for you?
Next week: TBA