LAKE WINNIPESAUKEE, N.H — This year I've chosen a lakeside cottage among tall pine trees in which to enjoy the last few days of summer. My only firm commitment is to keep alert for the call of the loons. I don't want to miss them. For me, they are the music of summer.
During three uncluttered days in the country, I've paid no attention to the cicadas, which, I'm told, start singing when there is a prescribed number of summer days left; stubbornly stayed outside for 14 hours a day; given cool breezes the freedom of the house; and sung more loudly than ever in praise of trees loaded with leaves.
The TV weather forecasters may be counting us down to the official end of summer, but I'm not giving up on warm, expansive thoughts. I've decided to carry them right through the upcoming winter - and beyond.
The founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, observed that "chronological data are no part of the vast forever" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 246). And, "Eternity, not time, expresses the thought of Life, and time is no part of eternity" (pg. 468). If time is no part of eternity, who needs more of it? Why should we try so hard to stretch it, save it, ration it, manipulate it, for our pleasure or our profit?
Further questions come to mind: For several weeks, this part of the world has been immersed in life's fruitfulness. But who says late August means facing the end of vitality? Does summer's end have to provoke loss, the feeling that some part of what we've been given is about to be taken away?
I'm almost embarrassed to admit that until I got to the lake, I wasn't even asking those questions. I was so busy thinking and doing what everyone else was thinking and doing - saying a reluctant farewell to summer and clutching at moments we've got to savor just one more time - that I was completely missing the good stuff, including the anticipation of what lies ahead.
Only yesterday I visited the nearby village of Wolfeboro and found that people in the supermarket were talking of nothing but the shortening days and their dread of returning to the office.
I wanted to tell them about my children who live in the Southern Hemisphere. Their e-mails late in August are filled not with sadness but with the excitement of approaching spring. While we are closing windows and reaching for electric blankets, they are opening windows and switching blankets off.
It all depends on where you are and what you're thinking. After all, do you really have to say goodbye to something that's brought great happiness and will return again? If we get too sad about the end of summer, we leave no room for the breathtaking colors of autumn or the dazzling brilliance of winter.
Gradually, I'm learning to stop seeing falling leaves as failing leaves, but rather as a harvest of gold heading for something different. I'm expecting the trees around me to provide leafy mulch for the natural enrichment of the soil beneath their branches, and am looking forward to a flourish of new growth next April - or October, depending on where you live.
I'm realizing how important it is not to be a slave to the calendar. It's all too easy to align your inner self with the constant turn, turn, turn of typical mortal thought - its perishable glories, inescapable sadness, lost dreams of heaven. Instead, we can retune our thinking to the fact that seasonal changes and mortality have no power or control over God's creation.
Right here at the lake, I'm gaining fresh perspectives on time and eternity by rediscovering my spiritual identity as an idea of God that remains ever fresh and ever new. I'm daring to accept that my true nature is as beautiful as the longest summer's day, and as hauntingly lovely as the call of a loon on a warm summer's evening. It knows only the timeless, effortless unfolding of God's infinite blessings.
Just a moment ... I think I hear the loons. Please excuse me. Have a great fall - or spring, or whatever ....
In thy presence
is fulness of joy.