Friday, September 18, 2009


Fall is, without question, my favorite time of year. After months of muggy Central Ohio soup, Summer finally throws in the towel and heads south. Leaves are starting to fall already, but they're mostly from the small trees, weak of constitution and exasperated with the last two months of little rain. True Fall change is still to come.

We went for a walk tonight and caught up on the day while I studied the woods and fields for changes. The tall grasses and weeds that thrived in baking sun seem to be wilting and shrinking in the cooler air. The meadows, usually exploding with life, seem tired and shrinking, letting you see more of the tree line beyond. Sleepy blackberry bushes choke out all ground cover but the Poison Ivy which slithers invincible through hillsides and fence rows.

As we were heading back to the car, we watched a little kid chasing after the ducks that had made their way up onto a large flat grassy patch. Watching the ducks reminded me of when I was a kid in Indiana. We lived on small lake, and each winter the ducks would swim quickly in a circle keeping the water from freezing over. The colder it got, the smaller their circle would get, until eventually the ducks would give it up and head for shelter amongst the dead rattling cattails and allow the cold air to seal the surface of the water.

I would sometimes go out onto the ice with a pick and break off sections of the ice, trying to give them more room to maneuver and avoid the neighborhood dogs that would come over to grab them out of the water when they swam close to the edge.

One morning, while breaking up the ice along their swimming hole, I fell through the surface. The water wasn't deep, and barely reached my chest, but my feet immediately sunk into the mud. Locked into place by unseen silt, my entire body heaving with the sting and shock of water, I felt every sense firing all at once and my brain went a painful copy-paper white. It had to have been only seconds, but time stretched and mattered little in the midst of the experience. Finally, through some magic automation of nature my lungs filled themselves with air, I pulled my feet out of the mud, and moved toward the bank.

When I was seventeen, I went on a trip to Israel and was baptized in the Jordan River. This was the place where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist and it was to be an honor to share in that collective experience some 1,995 years later. Looking back on it now though, I imagine the minister who oversaw my baptism hoping to instill the same feeling of wonder and newness that I had that winter Indiana day. In truth it came nowhere near that moment of pulling myself out of the mud, awkwardly holding the pick axe with numbing hands, and remembering to breathe. In that moment, my winter coat soaked and slick with ice, I was alive in a way I had never been before.

Tonight, Jen and I kept walking along the path, smiling at each other and watching the kid run after the ducks. After voicing their honking displeasure, they took to the air to avoid the child who laughed and continued to run toward the lake's edge after them.

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