Seasons Continued (pun intended)

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Hello at 12 :50 a.m.,

I am awake probably because I went to bed at 8:40 last evening. I read blogs and commented for a while, but I hit a wall and decided to sleep. I have set the alarm for 5:00, but today looks like a bit of a blur, and my brain is racing, so I will write for a while and see if I can fall back to sleep. One of thing I have noticed since my last trip to the ER after a coughing sleep week before last is my eyes are struggling to focus and see as clearly as they were before that episode. Frustrating and perhaps it is time to get to an optometrist. I guess I will have to make time for some more appointments. Next week it is time for my 3 month check up also. Always something to manage. ” It is the life.” In the words of Sr. Galán.

In my last blog began to speak about seasons and how seasons might be used as a metaphor for my life. If you read that blog you know I spoke most about spring and then finished up with some words about summer. I have pondered the summer idea since then and I still believe that the happiest time of my life was when I was three or four years old. What made it so? I think it was that time in my life when I knew I was truly loved. My grandmother, of whom I have spoken before, was my mother at that point in time. My sister and I were no longer living with our parents for variety of reasons, primarily neglect. And while I have never really remembered that time in my life, I remember vividly living at my grandparents house. What I know now is that, in spite of my grandmother’s issues she loved me with her whole heart. She loved me unconditionally and she loved me for the remainder of her days on this earth. Unfortunately, I think it was a love that I took for granted all too often. Part of that was immaturity; part of that was selfishness; perhaps, most accurately, it was youthful stupidity She passed away shortly after my 22nd birthday. I think I have noted before that there were mannerisms that were replicated by Lydia. Maybe that’s why she found her way into my heart in a way that few ever have. Maybe the first two years I was living next-door to Lydia might be the other summer in my life. Things at Stout were going seemingly well, and I so loved the little house in which I lived. Living between the Lacksonens and Lydia was an ideal situation. Indeed, it was a time that I was more than content, I was happy. I enjoyed my job; I felt valued at that point. I actually loved cooking breakfast for Lydia every morning and sitting down to a glass of sherry in the evening before I would go back to my house to sleep. The little house was a wonderful habitat.The other thing that I’ve realized about myself is this. While I give my love to others quite freely, there are very few people in my life that I have loved deeply and completely. The first is my grandmother. The second was probably Theresa, my second wife. The third would be Lydia. While there is a fourth possibility, the jury is still out on that situation.

So how would I understand the fall of my life? First, I must admit that autumn is perhaps my favorite season. The majestic tapestry of colors makes it hard to doubt the existence of a creator. The crisp invigorating mornings followed by the warm hazy afternoons, for me, provide the best of both worlds. Perhaps my love affair with the fall is also related to the return of a new school year with new academic possibilities. I guess what I’m realizing is that I connect the fall and the spring because of their common connection to a time of learning. Some of my favorite falls include the first fall I was in college at Iowa State University. I was excited by the town, by the classes and I remember walking from the towers to campus. 30,000 students in town made for endless possibilities. I remember a girl that I met her name was Barb. She was smart and beautiful. Ironically, I would reacquaint with her six years later at the University of Iowa. She is still a person whom I appreciate and admire. Another fall that I remember was probably my first year at Luther seminary the fall of 1983. Perhaps it was an important fall because it was the last time I was well. Or at least perceived that I was well. It would be that coming winter when I was first diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. I had spent the entire previous summer crashing Greek, cramming two years of classes into 12 weeks. I was living in the dorm, a place we referred to finally as Bock-person Hall. I was the head resident of that dorm. A much different job than being such a person in an undergraduate dorm. Those persons with whom I had done summer Greek became my closest friends. Such an amazing group of people, good and brilliant. I loved the St. Anthony Park area where the seminary was located, the old houses, the huge old trees, and the crisp and clean Minnesota air. In the six years I have been back in Pennsylvania, I think there has been the potential for such falls, but I’m not sure that I’ve had such a memorable autumn experience yet. Ironically I might have the most ideal setting ever. I work on an amazing campus that looks out of the mountains and that majestic tapestry of which I wrote has never been more apparent. The same goes for where I live. Sitting either on the patio or on my front porch, I can look out and I’m always amazed at the wonder of the world in which I live. Perhaps it is because I live alone. Perhaps it’s because I feel I have no one with whom to share this. However before you think I’m sounding desperate, just don’t because I’m not.

Perhaps the fall metaphor, is the most appropriate for me at this point. The majestic tapestry of which I’ve spoken reminds us through its colors the plants in this creation have reached their peak and provide for us unparalleled beauty. Indeed the combination of sun rain and carbon dioxide create something that we as humans are incapable of doing. And yet the peak season of color is fleeting. As I’ve driven across interstate 80 through the valleys in the mountains of this upper Susquehanna area, I’m continually astonished at how quickly, sometimes within 24 hours, things change. Yet, that seems to be how my life has gone, particularly this past year. If there’s ever been a year that epitomized the Tale of Two Cities, 2014 was that year. It was the year to expect the unexpected. It was the year that I could not have predicted no matter how good my crystal ball might’ve been. Some of the successes were significant. Some of the changes profound. If you have read my blog with any consistency, you’re well aware that some of the most precious things that I had are gone, or changed. Much like the colors of the fall the year reminded me that there is nothing permanent, everything is fleeting. Such a statement might sound cynical, but I do not mean it to be such.

So where am I? If I am correct, and seasons are not chronological, where do I honestly believe I am? In which season do I reside at the present? If I look outside my window there is little doubt that I am in the winter. I have spent three of the last four mornings with the snow blower; there can be little doubt that it is January and I live somewhere where snow is at least a semi-common occurrence. I do not mind the snow and, in fact, I rather enjoy it. I enjoy it for its beauty and serenity, and I enjoy it for its solitude. I enjoy it for the starkness, perhaps for even the harsh reality it brings to our existence. It is with a certain sense of gratitude that I ponder is pureness and its simple beauty. Take the time some late night or early morning to look out at the freshly fallen snow in the moonlight. I learned to do this in the Upper Peninsula when I was in graduate school. An average of 270 inches of snow each winter made it a little difficult to not come face-to-face with the stark reality of winter. I remember when I first moved there and someone asked me if I liked snow. I responded in the affirmative. And they repeated, “No, do you LIKE snow?” What I realized was if you didn’t like it or learn to like it you would not survive. The pristine beauty of the Keweenaw Peninsula in winter is unparalleled. And Lake Superior provides two things: a boat-load (a really large boat) of snow and actually moderate temperatures. However, for most of us, winter reminds us of the death of anything’s plants, buildings, and, yes, even people. If the metaphor is to continue does winter mean death in my understanding of the seasons? To say so seems rather cliché, and I don’t particularly like clichés. Perhaps rather than death, it might be reasonable to see winter from his actual dates 21 December for the 21st or 22nd of March. Winter moves us from one calendar year to the next, from an ending to a beginning. In my previous life is a pastor I’m reminded of the words that occur in the committal service spoken over an open grave. “This is the gate to eternal life”. It is only in our ending, that we have any hope for a new beginning. I’ve experienced those new beginnings throughout my life because of changes, moves, and new opportunities. Those times were winters, if you will. But somehow this time winter seems different, it seems more permanent. But I’m okay with that. Perhaps I am in the winter. I refuse to fear it; instead I will embrace it. I will embrace it for its beauty or the preparation it allows me. There’s no need for angst or desperation. I’m reminded of the words of Paul. And yet in the fullness of time, it came to me the least of all. I have things yet to do and I will embrace those opportunities as I always have. I will work to make sure that I complete the things to which I am obligated, to keep my word to those people to whom I’ve made promises. I’m grateful that I’ve been able to experience the four seasons both literally and virtually. Indeed I have been blessed.

As always thank you for reading. It’s now 2:30 in the morning. I believe I can go to sleep. I should note it is the next day and when I wrote this (actually spoke it), I found there were many more issues with it than I could have anticipated. I think I have edited out most of the issues. Thanks for bearing with me.

Dr. Martin

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