Something about the beginning of September makes me feel like starting a new chapter. Perhaps it’s all those years of getting a new blank notebook to begin the school year. It’s been many a year since I went back to school, but old habits die hard.
The weather here in New England changed this past week. We’ve had a miserable summer, rainy and humid, by turns too cold and too hot, but always damp and sticky. Now the air is dry and the sky is high and blue, and it is cool enough to work outdoors without losing your weight in sweat. I trimmed my hedges today and hardly worked up a sweat. Perhaps the change in the weather sets off some internal clock, like a migrating bird, that says it’s time for a new chapter.
For me September is the real beginning of a new year. It marks the end of summer and the approaching Fall. It marks time like a turning hinge, from then to now, and from now to what now?
This cool weather reminds me of a September day twenty-seven years ago in 1982. We lived in Maine, 20 minutes outside of Bangor on a 100-acre farm. We had a new baby, born July 22, our first child, Andrew, and we were in transition. I was about to take a new job and we would soon be moving to a new state. I had accepted a call from a search committee, but hadn’t been voted on by the congregation yet. That would take place on September 12 down in Massachusetts. These votes usually work out, but New England Congregationalists take their prerogatives pretty seriously, so it was by no means pro forma. I was still working at my old job, although I can’t say my heart was fully in it.
It was Labor Day weekend, and my Dad and his wife Virginia (my mother died in 1967) had come up from New York City to see the new grandchild (my Dad’s second, but first in almost a decade. His first one was Adam and he asked me dryly, as only Larry Floyd could, if the family was working their way alphabetically through a Biblical Concordance).
The weather was bright and cool like it is today. We were all having a good time, still in summer vacation mode, and a new baby is a great distraction from whatever else might be vexing you. We went down the road to the next small town to eat, nothing fancy, but good Maine summer fare: steamers, lobster, sugar and butter corn, blueberry pie.
Driving home in the dark I noticed a spectacular display of the Northern Lights, so when we arrived we took our flashlights and some lawn-chairs, and went out behind the barn (to escape the inevitable big rural floodlight our landlord had on the front of the barn.)
We sat silently in the dark and watched this extraordinary display of God’s grandeur. I have never seen anything like it, before or since. Martha quietly nursed our new baby. I took it all in, the sky, my family, my wife and new son, my Dad and his wonderful wife. Life was good if a bit uncertain. There was a new ministry ahead, a new town, a new house, a new chapter.
That day was a hinge time. God is good to us to let us live and enjoy the moments we have. This was one of them, and the change in the September weather always reminds me of it.
It was my Dad’s last September for he died the next July. These rare moments we are given when life seems especially good are to be embraced and remembered. Like this great September weather they only last so long.