Yesterday suggested fall in New England.
Something about the light.
Something about the ease of temperatures after a long, steady lack of ease.
In years past I have experienced an eager anticipation at the approach of this particular season. At the mere mention of it, a writer friend yesterday began cataloguing corduroys, fleeces, the crunch of fallen leaves -- the reliable euphoria awaiting her in her imagination.
Cozy and picturesque, another such season on its way, its routines welcome, even welcoming.
Around six o'clock yesterday evening, I took my collapsible camp chair to a spot on a nearby campus and settled beneath a tree. The scene before me was quiet and soothing, summery and sunny. Aware how regularly in my life I have searched out such settings for a reflective hour, I thought about the season of fall. I thought about the ways its characteristics are applied to patterns in an individual life. I thought how comforting those comparisons can feel in the abstract, the utterly natural ebbing of strength and productivity that should surprise no one, panic no one.
I was surprised, though. An ordinarily optimistic man, I was aware of a kind of panic.
My life really could change.
I could in time want something that I had always thought possible and perhaps not get it. I could think of myself in an habitual way and one day find that I was no longer just like that. The wisdom that over five decades of experience had brought me could end up being needed not just to set goals and accomplish tasks more realistically and efficiently -- it could be needed to face and accept real loss.
I stammered something out loud. Solitary in that green setting, I had to say something to record the arrival of this unexpected awareness. I had to try to put it into words.
I looked down at the open book of prayers in my lap and read this verse from Psalm 30:
At night there are tears, but joy comes with dawn.
I knew what such joy could feel like -- the joy after a night of tears. In that moment under the tree, I somehow knew that in the year ahead I would feel such joy again. And maybe not just once. Whatever tears might accompany loss and change in my life, joy could still surprise me, overtake me, reassure me.
I pledge myself to expecting it.