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Living In Tension

Flip flops, sidewalk chalk, and an orange leaf. One of these things is not like the others. It doesn’t feel much like Autumn yet around here. Although we’ve tried.

We went to an apple orchard last week for all the good stuff- apple cider and donuts and apple pie with cheddar cheese. It was 90 degrees out and we had to fight off a swarm of bees.

Yesterday, my daughter and I continued our summer tradition of eating popsicles on our screened-in porch during a rainstorm. We watched and listened as the heavy rain unceremoniously brought down many of the orange and red leaves from the maple tree in our front yard.

We dress for the cool weather in the morning, only to take off our jackets and sweaters in exasperation before noon, as the sun gets high and hot in the sky.

It strikes me that, just maybe, I’ve felt this way before. This tension between seasons, my body and mind ready for cooler weather. Maybe ready, even, for a little bit of darkness for quiet and contemplation? All the while knowing when the deep grey of February comes, I’ll crave the bright August sun.

We contain multitudes, right? The changing of the seasons is gradual, like most other changes. It happens slowly and then suddenly, it’s November. I’m a millennial and like Ben wrote a few weeks ago, we tend to rush this spiritual journey. I crave clarity and understanding and I don’t particularly care to wait for it. The inverse is also true for me. When I know something is no longer working for me, I’m anxious to leave it behind. I want a clean break, a fresh start and I’d like to leave the baggage in the past. When Autumn comes, I’d like to pack away the flip flops and the sidewalk chalk and popsicles in one fell swoop. One quick ritual to say goodbye to the old and welcome the new. I’d like to bust out the flannel and the pumpkins and the apple cider. No in between, just one season at a time, please.

I’m learning, however, that there’s a lot of life to be lived in this tension. Soaking up the last bits of sunshine and enjoying flannel in the mornings. Welcoming the seasons as they gradually come. Creating small rituals as I notice the signs of Autumn; the last harvest from our garden, the first orange leaves on the ground, the darkness creeping in earlier each evening. After all, leaves don’t fall from the trees all at once, instead they fall one at a time.

In college, one of my favorite professors taught an introductory religious class called “Questions of Christianity.” Even though it was about understanding many of the basic tenets of Christianity, it was more about asking the right questions and interrogating the religion that we’d grown up with. There is more depth in the questions. There is more growth in accepting and appreciating the tension. It often makes me uncomfortable and sweaty. Yet, I’m still here. With my baggage and my flip flops, watching the leaves fall.

Kelsey Hart is a friend of Celtic Way.

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