October 11, 2010
“In the Autumn, Time Seems ‘Speeded Up’”
The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner
The title for this column is from a quote by writer and naturalist Edwin Way Teale. “Change is a measure of time and, in the autumn, time seems speeded up. What was, is not, and never again will be; what is, is change.” Teale and his wife traveled over 75,000 miles by automobile between 1945 and 1966 to observe and chronicle the changing of the seasons all across America. He is best know for his series of books entitled “The American Seasons,” and won the Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction in 1966. It is worth noting that Teale’s quote about autumn, “What was, is not, and never again will be; what is, is change,” was written soon after his son died serving in World War II.
There is a tension in autumn between the beauty we observe and the tinge of anxiety we feel that things are changing rapidly, that indeed time is speeding up. The leaves that were still green a week ago, are brilliant reds and yellows today. The leaves that were brilliant reds and yellows last week are gone today. Autumn reminds us that change is the norm in life, but it also reminds us of the beauty that can be experienced in the midst of change. We have numerous opportunities this time of year to practice living and being in the present moment.
The changing seasons remind us that our own lives are marked by seasons of change as well. Nothing effects our emotional, spiritual and relational wellness more than how well we negotiate major changes. As a priest and therapist I work with many people who are in the midst of profound change. One thing I have found that is very helpful for them is to be able to affirm and hold on to the things in their lives that they see as never changing. So I always ask, “What can you affirm and hold on to as changeless in the midst of the many changes you are now experiencing?” Each person answers differently, but the most common responses are God, their soul, and their core beliefs and values.
Autumn reveals how suddenly the world around us can change, and yet at the same time it reveals such incredible beauty for us to behold. It is so easy for us to miss this beauty though as we worry about what is to come. Just yesterday I was commenting to someone about how beautiful the colors were this year, and all they could say was, “Well, you know what that means. Before you know it we will be shoveling snow.” The challenge is the same in our personal lives. We need to find and celebrate the moments of beauty that are right in front of us, even though we may be keenly aware that they will not last forever.
As the leaves rapidly drop from the trees, time indeed seems “speeded up.” Autumn is almost over. Before it is, be sure to pause and enjoy both its beauty and the many life lessons it has in store for us.