Falling back into the swing of things.

The leaves have begun turning in the mountains, and I first had a reason to put on a sweater this past week because of the outdoor temperature rather than overzealous air conditioning.  Incidentally, Dan and I spent a few days in West Virginia during the "Leaf Peepers Festival," so I suppose I am not alone in noticing the shift that begins in late September. Nor am I alone in recognizing and remarking that September is far more a new beginning to us (or a November , which is the start of the liturgical year for the church nerds among us) than January ever will be.  As long as we keep the traditional school calendar, the regular rhythm of sports and classes and extracurriculars and college visits will encourage the rest of us--whether we have school-aged children or not--to fall into step.


The change happens swiftly, to be sure.  We go from lazy summer schedules to completely booked calendars, from leisurely evenings to nighttime triathlons of sorts, games and experiments to see how much we actually can pack in.  Every monthly meeting is back in session, and all of the home projects and family and friend visits seem to be scheduled for the next three month period.  


Isn't this exactly how we're not supposed to do things?  Shock our system into oblivion?  Couldn't we ease into this whole routine and structure deal instead?


I never guessed I would side with the drastic measures approach, but I am becoming convinced.  Productivity and rhythm comes with constraints and limits.  There is some value, in other words, to learning to pack it all in.  


Do you know how you can have a free afternoon, no plans or agenda, and realize five hours later that you have no idea what you did?  Or when you fall out of your usual grocery shopping or writing or budgeting routine and the tasks that used to be simple and quick to complete now somehow loom over you like unsurmountable, neverending assignments?  Too much freedom is not necessarily a good thing.


That's mostly why I love this time of year.  I love my Google calendar, my chore and grocery checklists, the form and structure of the weekly and seasonal liturgy of my faith tradition, and the comfort--and energy--that comes from knowing that I do not have too many choices or too many options for how to fit everything into the schedule.  I follow the plan I already have devised, the path already set before me.  I may revel in the hustle-and-bustle so integral to autumn without apology.  The briskness of fall is not brusque; it is intentional, motivated, determined. 


Ironically, it is that ethos that enables me to notice the leaf changing colors, drink in the sight, thirstily, knowing they will be gone before I know it.



Emily Rowell Brown