Painting by: My father-in-law, the late Bob Niles. The Cimarron River, Oklahoma.
“The falling leaves drift by the window. The autumn leaves of red and gold…And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song. But I miss you most of all, my darling, when autumn leaves start to fall.” – “Autumn Leaves” – recorded by many, including Nat King Cole. English lyric version written by: Johnny Mercer – Capitol Records, with music for the English by: Joseph Kosma. (Adopted from a French song, “Les Feuilles Mortes”, French lyrics composed by: Jacques Prevert.)
To say, the majority of our Texas trees are just now releasing their leaves, will be comical to my friends and family to the north. Yes, Texas trees turn late in the year when so many are bare in points north on the map. Although I love my Texas, I do wish the foliage was as brilliant as they are elsewhere. However, I’ll take what we can get.
In the immediate neighborhood, I enjoy the tree across the street from my front porch the most.
(Pictures from my phone never do the colors justice. Don’t ya hate that?)
Here in north-central Texas, grab your camera while you have the time. The leaves turn and drop really quickly. In no time at all, they are on the ground, ready for the rake.
God’s artistry is, well…simply divine, so to speak. Where I live, He paints the leaves in mid-late November in various golds, yellows and maroons, depending upon the species. The nutrients dry-up, choking-off the green chloroplasts in the leaves, while dashing them with hues only a painter could conjure on canvas. Then, by mid December, the Season-Holder sends the winds to do their job. Yet, there are exceptions in Texas. Not every tree belongs around Dallas/Ft Worth.
In my neighbor’s backyard, just on the other side of the fence, is a rather tall exotic tree, native of Indonesia with large leaves. It looms mainly over our garage, driveway, and side-yard. Misbehaving, due to not realizing its no longer in Indonesia, it sheds its leaves overnight if the winds can muster-up moving a flag. When it does, we wake up to shin deep leaves in the driveway.
Wednesday, during prep for Thanksgiving at our house, as we were expecting a few family members, I tackled the job of raking the platter-sized leaves from the driveway. Don’t get me wrong, I needed the exercise, but it was a lengthy activity without a leaf blower. We have a compost pile in the far corner of our backyard. Seeing how many leaves there were, as well as the ginormous size of each, I knew full well it would fill the designated compost section. And I was right.
I must admit, the little boy came out in me as I enjoyed hearing the loud crunching sound beneath my shoes. After awhile, it wasn’t such a novelty any longer. It took many trips from the driveway, across the front lawn, around the side of the house, across the backyard, down to the back forty to the compost pile. There they rested, all dead, in the falling-leaf cemetery. Sad, isn’t it? All unwanted, as if they were no longer needed, no longer pleasing to the eye, or of any shading value.
Yesterday, being the day after our Thanksgiving holiday here in the U.S., I visited my oldest uncle. My precious, Uncle Bob is my mom’s eldest brother. At 79 years old, he is in the 2nd stage of Alzheimer’s. I’m old enough now to have seen the dreaded disease a few times in my family, going back a few generations. My mom’s other brother has dementia, on the foothills of the big “A”, as well. In fact, my mom wonders if she is experiencing some early warning signs herself.
My visit was mainly with his wife, my Aunt Ellen, and her son, Bobby Jr. I watched my uncle, a man I have admired since I was a toddler, an intelligent man of mechanical and electrical engineering, sit in his recliner while playing with a blanket like an 18 month old child. There’s no question concerning his inability to recognize me, and that was okay. Through the years I learned how to interact with other family members who have suffered from this “long-goodbye” disease. He shook my hand with a nice grip, smiled, and told me he felt good, after I had told him he looked good. It won’t be too much longer when he will not interact at all. How I wish I could wrap my magical arms around him, holding the progression back from changing him any further. Yet, it’s not the nature of the monster to obey our commands.
Too often a society will see the diseased, or dying, as throw-away items. Many years ago, my dad told me he had stopped seeing about his mother, overtaken by Alzheimer’s. When I inquired about his remark, he said, “Well, she’s not the same mother I once knew. She is no longer useful to me.” I froze. It’s astonishing. Some 34 years have flown by since I heard his explanation and it still astounds me to this very day. For him, even though sorrow was involved, she was a throw-away item to him.
Allow me to be sarcastic for a moment, with a pinch of anger.
You have seen some “throw-aways”, I’m sure. For some, it might be the guy at the Thanksgiving table who only makes minimum wage Or it’s the guy at the table who is of wealth. For others, it might be the single-mom, working 10 hour shifts as a waitress at a diner, with a pencil behind her ear. When leaving the eatery, after tipping her as little as possible, it’s common to be approached by a homeless man in the parking lot. After a well rehearsed sob story, he asks for bus fare, when it’s probably a scam to purchase another bottle of cheap Scotch. Is it possible there is a neighbor with a heavy accent from another part of the world, or another part of the state? There might be a co-worker who has a brother, stricken with AIDS, who is no longer claimed as family. Maybe it has to do with a few hundred people living in the low-rent apartments from the other side of the tracks, not to mention anyone who resides in a mobile home from a trailer park. It may simply be an individual with an obnoxious nervous tic. Lately, it seems, the “throw-away” nearby is an outspoken Democrat or Republican, and certainly anyone under a red cap who attends political rallies full of cheering presidential fans. Where does the list stop? Seriously. Do we stop with the elderly, the babies, the ill, the poor, the odd, the mentally handicapped, the black, the brown, the red, the Asian, the blue-eyed, the brown-eyed, the blind, the atheist, the person of faith, the vegetarians??? Before you know it, there are thoughts, coming from those without blemish or issues, surrounding the “raking-up” of these “throw-away” segments of citizenry, appointed for the societal compost where they can pile-up and wither away together. After all, they are no longer pleasing to the eye, no longer useful or needed. They are usually noticed when they get in our way of sight, or too loud under our shoes. Hum, where have we seen that before?
“Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father, as well as the soul of the son is mine…” – God – Ezekiel 18:4 (ESV)
The truth is, we ALL fall down, one way or the other. The universal truth is, we ALL fall short of perfection, the perfect standard. You know it, and I know it. The eternal caliper is immovable, uncompromising, and righteous. Honestly, which one of us can ever measure-up? Only one did, and He wasn’t you or me.
In God’s undying outreach of love toward us “throw-aways”, GRACE (unearned favor) is offered. It’s an offer from the spout of fuel for the race.
2 Peter 3:9 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.