I place one foot in front of the other. A stone wall is my balance beam, and I catch my breath as each rock tilts and shifts under my step. Me, 10 years old, out of the house until the sun has painted the sky orange, walking the old stone wall property lines in the land of my childhood. Under certain rocks rested pens and notebooks, words of my heart laying quiet until I would meet them after school to write and be silent.
This one certain wall that holds my memory sits at the top of the hill, overlooking the valley, and is where my mind wanders tonight.
“Mom? Are you happy?” This is a funny question for a three year old to ask, but ask she does. Her words stir me from my foggy mind. From under my grandmother’s afghans, she says these words while I swirl like a dervish around our home. I’m walking the lines of our home and in my heart, and sometimes the internal thoughts make their way out onto the lines of my face and the tone of my voice.
“Yes, bird, I am,” I sit down at her side, and she tosses the blanket over my lap. “Sometimes I’m happy. But sometimes I’m not. Just like you.”
She nods. “We are together. Me and you forever, Mom.” (If we could bottle moments up, I’d scoop this one up in all its color and tone and warmth, and place it on the top shelf where it’s sure to never break.)
It’s definitely autumn here in New York. Across the street, I’ve watched the poplar trees dance from summer into the wind, and now their leaves turn a slight shade of rusted red. A friend tells me the other day, “I miss you most in the fall,” and those words sidle up to my heart, stirring me warm.
“Autumn…asks that we prepare for the future — that we be wise in the ways of garnering and keeping. But it also asks that we learn to let go — to acknowledge the beauty of sparseness.” — B.W. Overstreet, taken from Romancing the Ordinary, Sarah Ban Breathnach
It’s amazing to me how we all love a season that is so beautifully marking the end of things. We will drink our cider, jump in piles, pick apples ripe from low hanging branches, and at the end, give thanks for our lines falling in pleasant places (Psalm 16:6).
This is how it should be, I tell myself. Some hopes must be cast up into an autumn storm. Some prayers will dance into heaven and appear to die before we see life again. And in my heart, I am walking the stone walls of the places He has set us in. The “boundaries of our dwelling place” like Paul talks about in Acts. I’m stepping on the stones — the ones that feel wobbly, the ones that hide my heart, the ones that are solid and stuck in the earth, immovable, unshakeable. I’m feeling my way towards my God who has held me in the entire time.
I’m looking inside these lines — at what we’re garnering and keeping. There are pumpkin candles to light, books to read, quilts to fold, sweatshirts to snuggle in and unwritten pages of a beautiful year left in our hands. And I’m standing on the boundary lines, looking out at the things that we must let our branches shake off. The unwritten blogs, the places we did not get to, the silent graves we’ve stood beside, the to-do list items that remain unfinished, the parts of my heart to which He said “this time, no.”
From this view, autumn is turning, and the poplar trees are shaking, and I am holding an armful of the best things to keep and garnish — the love under this roof, the grace that has sustained us, the rocks that are unmoving. I am leaning into a trust that He has placed us here and established us, and because it’s from Him and through His hands first, I can say our boundaries are “pleasant and our inheritance is beautiful.”
What are you keeping and cherishing this fall? What are you letting go into the wind? Has this season found you in places you didn’t expect?