Driving my youngest son home from college across low, rolling midwest hills yesterday evening, a chord of sweet melancholy opened up in my chest. Of course, you can never completely trace the origin of such a thing.
But when I scanned the inner horizon for at least a partial answer, I found one in the fields and forest margins passing by outside the car window. I realized that the drama of transformation from the dormant desolation of bleached straw-brown and bark-brittle gray to luscious, stalk-tall and fully unfurled leafy green had finally played itself out on the landscape. A warm, evening breeze was gently ushering out the posture of daily astonishment at the reckless, passionate miracles of spring as the stable colors and texture of the carpet of summer delivered me back into the days where we live most of our lives. Spring was over. Ordinary time had returned. There was an ache of loss in the moment, but deep consolation, too.
For all my long romance with the novelty of Fall and Spring and despite a natural inclination to drama in my search for God and Meaning, with every year that passes I see more clearly that it is our engagement with the ordinary that carries the most valuable, enduring graces. Underneath the rituals, prayers and feast days, our great spiritual traditions seem to be asking: Can you accept the ordinary on its own terms rather than imposing your own meaning and romance on it? Can you allow whatever meaning and wonder is there to emerge on its own from the weed-lots and slush piles of the long seasons of summer and winter? Can you linger in the moment of a casual conversation? Savor a monday night dinner? Touch a tired cheek just before a spouse falls asleep? If so, then perhaps you can hold your present experience up next to the light of the promises of faith and see that they are already yours.
Last night I inhaled the first warm night of summer from behind the wheel and watched the sky turn from blue to violet while my son fell asleep. For a few miles on a Missouri Interstate, life and prayer had come together.