by Sheila Newman, FPUPC Earth Stewards Committee
It’s happened! The Northeast is wearing its Joseph’s coat of many colors. The dogwoods are ablaze in mahogany. Maples range from intense orange to burnished reds, and shrubs of all kinds sport fancy coats as if dressed for a festive dance. The conifers are ever more vividly green against the deciduous riot of hues.
All cultures and religions celebrate seasonal change. The birth of Christ Jesus is associated with the longest night of the year. Moses is taken into Pharaoh’s household in Spring. Hagar and Ishmael are granted God’s grace in Summer. The Laws are received by the Israelites in Fall and they are commanded to celebrate the festival of Sukkot, the conclusion of the Fall harvest, in joy!
Is it mere coincidence that Jesus’s mortal existence begins when daylight increases? Are the Moses and Ishmael narratives unrelated to God’s grace and power in nature? In temperate climes, harvest festivals abound.
Is it simply that the natural background of the theology reflects a dependence on taken-for-granted features that we ignore? Season’s change marks either the renewal for future abundance or a time to enjoy the fruits of a season.
Anticipating Fall and Winter with dread robs a person of opportunity. The glorious Eastern seasonal display is reward for vanishing daylight and increasing cold. Instead of gloom, it signifies rest, recovery, and the promises of the next season. Best of all, it put us into relation with the world around us. Fall can provide the interested observer with a much greater understanding of the biblical rubric: “the earth is the Lords and all that is in it.”
Migration and transformation give us quite the show if you know what to look for. When overhead the honking of geese and other waterfowl, or the darkening of the sky from songbirds heading to winter living quarters draws human attention, we are witness to extraordinary feats of travel and challenge that most do not appreciate beyond the passing sound or change in light. Members of invertebrate families build homes both above and below ground and may complete transformations to be envied. Although trees become “bare ruined choirs where late the sweet birds sang” (Shakespeare), within them unique Autumn and Winter processes begin that ensure longevity and fecundity. The changing colors give evidence of complex ecological relations. Trees and shrubs control the shedding of leaves and no longer wanted woody parts, by creating a boundary layer between their own nourishment and the parts they are giving back to God. In the soil, fungi and bacteria gorge on the gifts of the trees. These are but a few examples of a remarkable realm that we can welcome and be glad in it.