It’s been happening in fast-forward, it seems, this shortening of light, the darkening of days. Most afternoons, now, I have a pause, and in this pause I’ve been drawn outside, pushed out of my house almost, away from the inbox needing attention, from the dishes on the counter begging to be put in the dishwasher. Drawn into this air hinted already with the smell of decay, the deadening of summer turned inward on itself, the composting of all that fecundity turned earthward. At the edge of the patio there is this patch of sunlight that cuts away from the long shadows cast by our castle of trees. I can’t help but turn my face toward that sky and beg the sun to kiss me just a little bit longer. I want to store up that Vitamin D, wishing that I could tuck the physical memory of it away deep in a pocket, forgotten about and left only for me to stumble across when I need it most on a dark day in January. Under the radiance of the sun, I shed the long sleeve layer that has been shrouding my shoulders. It’s just in these days that the dancing edge of sun and shadow is difference enough to cause sweat to bead my face, or make me shiver with Autumn’s glassy touch glancing off my bare skin.
I’ve been taking this pause for a few days in a row now, and I settle in for twenty minutes or so with a book on the chaise lounge, a simple recharge before prancing headway back into the demands of the day. But even within this short pause, after a few days of sunshine, I’ve had to shift my chair, noticing how the shadows have settled their fortress over my territory, the sun weary to fight the unrelenting spin of the earth.
It’s the spin of the earth and it’s gravitational thrust that I feel most these days. The circles in my life are many, and obvious, and often I find that I’m not so much weaving a tapestry but spinning knot upon knot. It’s the circles I spin around my kitchen, feeding one squawking bird beak after another. It’s the circle I spin in the family room, tidying and picking up the toys and blankets and pillows and papers. It’s the circle the I spin in and out of the car, driving and picking up, and dropping off, going from place to place, but always back home again. But as my afternoons outside with the sun as my companion have shown me: these are not circles I’m spinning, but ellipses or spirals, orbits of some kind but with time shifting and stretching in the background.
Time shifts and stretches for the kids, too. They knock my socks off, really. They are so much more than what my own mind can hold of them. More courageous, more forgiving, more stubborn, more hysterical. More gentle, more smart, more big, more loud. Just so much more. There is so much learning and stretching and growing happening here, and sometimes it feels like this home is a terrarium, an experiment of life on earth. I notice, I do. I see all the trying on and figuring it out, and my heart beats stronger, harder, faster with the pulsing bloody love that I have for each one as they learn how to be people. Love that is messy and beautiful and deep and aching. Every night, when one by one each child unfurls their tight-fisted grasp on the day and relinquishes it all to sleep, and I kiss sweaty foreheads, and smooth blankets, and set things right for morning, I feel the paradoxical weight of it all. There is a lightness in that moment, a feeling like we all may float away on this cloud of sweet-dream exhales, but that this cloud is heavy, too, filled with all the day’s moments, the good, the hard, the well-fought, and the battles lost, and it is so full.
My hope is that as the days darken, the nights lengthen and then shorten again, as day begets days, and memories are spun like webs, that I can look back and notice how I’ve grown, too. But as the sun disappears from my face today, as the shadows from the trees that are taller this year than last cover the yard, I don’t want to be the only thing in my landscape that is unchanged. I want to be changed, too. I want to be molded, and shaped by the growth of the trees, the passing of the sun. It’s hard to understand growth in my life, to even know what it looks like: I already know my ABCs, I learned how to ride a bike years ago. It’s harder to see, and harder still to do: to spin less like a circle, to push against the gravity that holds me in old patterns. But if I let God set my orbit, if I quiet my old self-talk enough to hear His call, then I know that standing in this patch of sunlight next year, I will be growing in spirals. I want to see how I’m growing towards a softer heart, a more tender soul, one that looks more like my Maker. I want to see the ways that I stand taller like those trees, that next year, when I’m saving up my Vitamin D for the winter days, I can remember back to today, and see the growth rings on my soul, too.