On Monday morning I was out early. I got a cup of coffee at my favorite place on Broadway, then went to Island Park to enjoy it by the river. The wooden deck of the foot bridge was slick with frost. The air was so cold that I tried to keep my hands warm around my coffee cup, and wished for this first time this season that I had gloves. The Chippewa River was flowing fast and strong and clear.
And on Tuesday, back at the Chipp-a-Waters woods, I picked up two especially bright maple leaves, a larger red one and a smaller orange one. I love holding the prettiest leaves for a few moments and then letting them go. I have seen pictures of art work where an artist takes hundreds of colored leaves and creates patterns on rocks and tree trunks with them, wetting them with water to make them stick. The finished piece lasts only for a few hours. I took my two leaves to the bridge over the river and dropped them over the edge on the upstream side. I quickly walked across to the downstream side to wait for the leaves to float past. If you’ve read A. A. Milne, you’ll recognize that I was playing my own version of Pooh Sticks—Winnie the Pooh does this by himself or with a friend. You just need something that floats, a bridge, and a river. I waited a moment, wondering if my leaves would appear, and if I would I recognize them when they did. Then they did float by, the large one and the small one. Pooh Sticks is not a race, it’s a moment of awareness, of anticipation and trust. The river flows in its own time.
In this time that is filled with fear due to the pandemic, and filled with fear (and hope) due to the election, I am grateful to recall these moments of simple beauty that I was able to squeeze into my week. Autumn in the north is such a special time: the unexpected and unbelievable beauty of the trees changing color, and the cold reminding us that this beauty is fleeting. Bright fall colors don’t last very long. The autumn can bring a sadness for the summer that is fading, but sadness is not an evil emotion. Summer is beautiful and long, and has a stillness to it. Fall is beautiful and changing.
God of the river and the forest, Mother Earth and Father Sky; god of the Standing Nation of trees, blessed be the season with its change. Blessed be the children in school and the deer in the forest and the squirrels that hop and climb.
May we be in harmony with the rhythm of nature and of the seasons in the place where we live. May we learn wisdom and patience and awareness and hope from the lessons of the leaves and the flowing stream. May we be like clear water that flows, always changing and always the same.
Rev. Andrew Frantz