Today I didn’t remove my sweater after I did the morning chores. It cools down at night in the mountains all year long, but this is different. This is the first sign of fall. The days are getting shorter. The angle of the light is changing. My friends on the Southeastern seaboard started school this week.
Our never ending summer isn’t over yet — there will be weeks yet, of hot days — but we’re being warned.
In our part of the world, the colors start to turn in August, from the heat, rather than only in October from the cold. Already I can look up the mountainside and see the rich colors of fall emerging from the green, where the brush is dry as tinder and brown and orange as the earth.
I knew it. See, I told you so. I told you this never ending summer would begin to fade away in just a blink. But also these are my favorite moments. I love the moment when you know the value of your treasure, because you’re paying attention, and no silly distraction can turn your eyes away. I love the moment when you know how wealthy you are.
That’s why I love the message of the fall.
My kids are ready to be starting school. Stella has tacked up a poster of the multiplication tables next to her bed, because she gets to learn them this year, and that makes her feel about ten feet tall. I asked Milo why he wasn’t writing his journal this morning and he said, “Because I’m doing a project instead. I’m starting to write a book.”
But I’m not done yet. I want sixteen more date nights with a jelly jar glass of wine on the trampoline, looking at the stars. And I want to take my sweater off before breakfast, and I want to swim in cold water because I need the refreshing shock of it, to break the heat. And I want to stand in the garden eating cherry tomatoes and bracing myself to see the numbers of yellow squash. Also, we’re not the Southeastern seaboard, and in our land we don’t start school for three more weeks.
Sadie painted some pictures this morning. She said this one was the sunset and that one was the forest, but they look the same to me. She brought me “dessert” made out of duplo legos. And when she asked me to put peach jelly on biscuits, I did, but then she ate only the jelly off the top and left the biscuits in a chewed up mess.
Ask me most times and I can’t wait for my kids to more self-sufficient and less difficult to care for. I can’t wait until I can stop spending a half an hour every day watering everything that needs to be watered because the heat is so intense. I can’t wait for everything to hurry up and get there, wherever there is.
But there’s a bit of magic, right at the end of summer and the beginning of fall. It’s what Glennon Melton once named as Kairos time. A magic time of slowing down, when things are in balance, and the pull forward is shifting back. I think I spent a lot of years not getting to see it, because the way of the world wants to drive right through it. The world wants to just push right through from back-to-school sales to after-school activities right through to the grave. The way of the world wants to rush right past it all, right past all this wealth, and beauty, and wonder. It could take the color right out of everything.
I had to make a rather spectacular collapse, to find my own way of slowing down. I don’t at all recommend my way of doing things. But I do recommend the prize. I do recommend the magic time, or Kairos time, which is found at the end of your rope, at the place where you fall down because you can’t go anymore. I do recommend the realization that you don’t make these moments magic, especially not by working harder to manage them. You allow these moments to be magic, because they already always were. What you needed was the courage to receive these blessings, which are always sort of mixed.
This will always be the summer, for me, that my big kids became so independent. Stella learned to make the bread by herself, and also finish a knitting project. Milo learned to make a fire in the stove and write a story with a beginning, middle and end. They’re not quiet people. They’re not easy people. One is a spitfire and the other is a walking daydream. But I’m trying to receive this time, as the blessing that it is. I’m trying to make room, for all this wealth. I’m trying not to let my ego or my ambition or my insecurities get in the way of this one precious life.
Everyone quotes this amazing thing that Mary Oliver said in a poem once: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” She also says, in the same poem, “I do know…how to be idle and blessed.”
Idle and blessed.
This may seem a funny thing to hear, coming from a person who works dawn to dusk. My daughter said, “You’re half writer and half farmer, mom,” and I had to laugh because I am exactly half each of those things and they’re neither of them easy jobs. They both take work steadily and patiently and always. And on top of that I’m in the learning curve on both. Master of little, student of a lot. There’s never a moment of any day that I don’t have a long list of things I should be doing, and on many days I work through a whole lot of that list, like a work horse, with my nose down and my willpower engaged.
But I couldn’t do any of it, honestly, if I didn’t know how to be idle and blessed.
This is my secret to how I accomplish so much in a day. Strong nettle tea and Kairos time, gratitude and sleep. I don’t know how to work harder. I have tried it, and it didn’t work. What I know about is how to be humble enough to receive all these mixed blessings, especially at the end of summer when the light is changing.
I wish you all the wisdom enough to lie down, on grass or on earth or on a trampoline under the stars. I wish you a respite from the pace of the domesticated world, and a bit of the magic of the wild, which knows how to be idle and blessed.
Love from the yurt,