Hmmmm…yes. The start of a new season, an opportunity for reflection and writing.
I love anything that feels like a fresh start. I think it’s partially why I am a morning person. That feeling of a brand new morning, where no matter what may or may not be on the day’s schedule, there is a day full of unknowns and possibilities ahead. Perhaps I feel that way especially during this time of year, where to wake up before the sunrise does not need to occur an uncomfortably early hour. I’ve always enjoyed being able to see the morning’s first rays of sunlight right around, eh, seven in the morning or so. That seems ideal.
It’s this time of year that I start feeling reflective again. The transition into a new season shakes something up in me. As each day grows shorter and each day a bit colder, it reminds me to pay attention, to appreciate that which I have been taking for granted. The warmth, for instance.
I was telling a friend recently that the pandemic taught me a lot about this world and our society, and it also taught me a lot about myself. Most pointedly, however, the pandemic showed me so many of the details of my life that I took for granted, aspects of life that I assumed were fairly immovable and therefore the details of which I did not appreciate fully.
In smaller ways, the transition of seasons does that for me, too. This morning Micah announced from the living room while I was still in bed, “Dad! Did you know it’s raining outside right now?!”
I closed my eyes and took in a slow, steady breath to appreciate the moment.
Ahhh, the first fall rain.
Lydia worked at 7:00am this morning and needed a ride, so I ruffled through the coat closet to find my rain jacket and put it on to walk out to the car to take her to Starbucks. The sun wasn’t quite up yet, and it had mostly stopped raining. The drips of water that splashed onto my raincoat were falling from the still-green leaves of the Linden trees overhead that line my back patio.
The air felt like fall, though, fresh and renewing. My soul was quieted by it.
As I was driving back from Starbucks, (I had to get Sarah and myself a couple warm drinks while I was there, of course), the first rays of the sun popped through a raincloud for the briefest of a moment. I was happy.
“best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light–
good morning, good morning, good morning.
Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.”
– Mary Oliver
Fresh starts, whether artificial or seasonal, I enjoy them. They are therapeutic for me.
It’s how they feel that I love most. New Year’s Day, for example, the most obvious of the fresh starts, I love how it feels more than anything else about that day. Christmas was a full week ago. The air is cold and fresh. There is more daylight on January 1st than the previous day, and it will continue that way until the middle of June. New Year’s Day is the goal-oriented person’s favorite day of the year, a time of both reflection of a year gone by and hopeful anticipation for the upcoming year.
I love the feeling of the long drive out on a fun vacation. That feeling of waking up a few minutes before that extra early alarm goes off, the sun still a couple hours from rising. Being up so early that I’m not even hungry for breakfast. That almost queasy feeling in my stomach is caused by the excitement of being on the road, off to a destination with friends or family, knowing that we are about to make lifelong memories together.
I love the feeling of birthdays and anniversaries. They are the perfect balance of celebration for me. They are milestones that mark the passing of time which signify another year on this earth. So they are days to joyfully celebrate another year gone by while also soberly remembering that we are therefore another year closer to our last year, whenever that may be. These days are fresh starts, though, and they remind me to pay attention to the present moment, to be grateful for the time we have on this earth and for the people we love and have walked through this life with up to this point.
There are other fresh starts that I love the feeling of, such as the first day of school with it’s fresh clean notebooks and unused mechanical pencils and their still perfect erasers. I love the feeling of renewal after you’ve apologized and made up with a friend or loved one after a disagreement or argument. That feeling of healing, of relief, that only comes from forgiveness. Though I’m unsure which is more rewarding: to be forgiven or to forgive. Whatever the case, the feeling is divine. I mean that literally.
Fresh starts are an essential part of Sarah and my job with the girls that we live and work with. All kinds of offensive and divisive and hurtful things happen and are said here. Consequences experienced from self-serving motives, from pride, from insecurity, from trauma. These experiences are met with grace, with mercy, with forgiveness, with reconciliation. That sounds lovely, but it’s hard work. And at the same time, it’s the best kind of work.
Providing fresh starts, experiencing them with someone, what a gift, what a privilege. And I often want to say, “This gift isn’t even from me. I’m just the messenger.”
Those who have chosen to follow the way of grace understand that the despite the message being thousands of years old now, the fresh start offered in grace is still somehow news to us, but oh is it good. I’m convinced of it because I have experienced it over and over, and my oh my, how I love how it feels.