Monday, October 15, 2018

Today Will Never, Ever, Ever Be Again: THEN LIVE IT!!!!

"This is a wonderful day, I have never seen this one before.” --Maya Angelou, poet

Sunday, October 14th, 2018. 

It was a day like any other day, I suppose.  The 287th day of the year. Just twenty four hours long or 1,440 minutes or 86,400 seconds, if you are counting.  In these parts it was a typical autumn day, a bit breezy, with a bright blue sky and then  later temps dropping to a chilly 41 degrees as the sun went down and the sliver of an orange moon rose in the sky.

Do you remember what that one day was like for you?

What you did? What you ate? The music you listened to in the car, the expression on your face in the mirror as you shaved, the feel of a warm embrace as your kid hugged you, the softness of your elderly parent's cheek as you kissed them in welcome for another Sunday visit?

Remember? Maybe. Maybe not. Probably not.

For most humans: we have so many days to live that it can be difficult, if not impossible, to recall the minute and mundane, the beautiful and the boring moments of just one day out of so many. Which if you think about it is kind of sad.  Because the truth is that a day, say like last Sunday: it never, ever happened before and it will never, ever happen again, so to let it slip by unnoticed, to banish it to memory, never to be retrieved, is a lost opportunity, a forgotten blessing, even.

There are rare folks who actually remember every single day, almost every single moment, in life. These souls have hyperthymesia, the ability to recall much of their lives in very specific detail. In ten years ask them about last Sunday the 14th and they will tell you what the stranger sitting across them on the subway was wearing. 

I don't think I want to recall that much experience and yet I do wish and pray I could be more conscious, more alive to and wide awake to, the precious and miraculous gift that is every sun up and sun down, every turn of the daily calendar page. I want to live by the wise words of the ancient author who declared, "This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!"

So--what was last Sunday, October 14, 2018, like for you? Try and recall, call it back. Guaranteed that on that one day you were blessed somehow. You were immersed in some experience that changed you: for the good, for the better, for sure.

Every day does change the universe, change us.  

So I now I do remember that one day...the wide open smile and enveloping arms of an enthusiastic five year old boy who wrapped himself around my legs as I finished up worship.  He just wanted to say "HI!".  I remember going to the Patriots game and being incredibly cold but so excited and happy: to watch a nail biting, nerve wracking game with my brother and four cousins, a rare gathering, then to finally get home at one a.m., so exhausted and so thankful.  It was a day to put up on the shelf and then take down later and remember with deep thankfulness.

And there is this day too.  This Monday, now the 15th of October. A raw and cold and rainy day. A smoky cup of coffee to drink by my side and another essay to write about life, about this one day.  The mistake I make is to somehow see this more "everyday" day as disposable or forgettable or something to quickly move on from because, well, it is just another day. Right?

But here's the truth. This day, that day, each day, today, all days: these are not just any days. These are instead days that will only happen once in a long string of tens of thousands of days that we all, incredibly, actually get to live. Get to breathe in and breathe out.  Get to watch our kids grow up, and feel ourselves grow older and witness the world rock and roll with so much change and so much challenge and so much energy.

We get to experience all of it, every single minute.

So thank you God: for October 14th, 2018. The 15th too.  Let me rejoice and be glad in it.  Let us all take this one day too, whatever the date, and then use it up and use it well, every last second.  Because when it is gone, it is gone. 

All that really matters is...today.





        

  





   

    



Monday, October 8, 2018

The End of the World As We Know It: Blame Pumpkin Spice

Fluff (noun) 1. light...particles, as of cotton. 2. a soft...mass 3. something of no consequence                       --Dictionary.com

(Trigger warning: this article is of absolutely no consequence. None. It's not political, partisan, profound nor p'oed. It is mere fluff, seven hundred or so words of cotton candy-ish rhetoric. You've been warned.)

I have seen the apocalypse, the end days, one sure sign that civilization as we know it is coming to an abrupt end. It appeared by stealth in these opening days of autumn, showed up unbidden on store shelves in the dead of the night, stocked by workers sworn to absolute secrecy. Perhaps you've seen it while strolling down the baked good aisles of your local grocery store, have recoiled in horror and fear at the appearance of this unholy spawn from the devil.

It is...Hostess Pumpkin Spice Twinkies. No, that's not a typo or a misprint.  Hostess Pumpkin Spice Twinkies. Yes, some food engineer sitting in a high tech lab somewhere in the middle of the corn fields of Indiana actually created this culinary catastrophe, this blending of two "foods", a Frankenstein like culinary monster of epic proportions. Bite into one of these spongy cakes and you'll be confronted with a vaguely pumpkinny flavored orange hued cream. Yum.

Okay. I know my harangue is a little over the top.  

But what is it with our nation's fascination every September and October now, with pumpkin or pumpkin spice flavored foods and drinks? I don't get it. Do you? This trend started in 2003 with the introduction by Starbucks of its Pumpkin Spice Latte, a $4.65 cent melding of coffee and (at least according to the company) "real" pumpkin flavoring. Do they blenderize a whole pumpkin and then somehow mix it in with the beans?

Regardless of how the baristas do it, this drink has become a huge hit for the ubiquitous java chain.  BuzzFeed reports that in 15 years, Starbucks has sold in excess of 350 million of these odd concoctions, wracking up sales of almost $1.5 billion. The drink is so popular it has its own Twitter handle with 110,000 followers and a hashtag that's been tagged some 850,000 times on Instagram.  Since I'm over 55 years old I have no idea what that last statistic means, but it must be important, right?

Not content to stop at a hybrid Twinkie or warped cup of coffee, a horde of companies have created a seemingly endless list of pumpkin or pumpkin spiced themed products.  Ready? Pumpkin ale. Pumpkin Greek yogurt. Pumpkin coffee creamer. Pumpkin marshmallows. Pumpkin Spice Cheerios. Pumpkin Pie Hummus Shake. (Yes these two foods deserve each other.) Pumpkin Spice pretzel nuggets.  Pumpkin Flax Energy Cakes. (Why not mix in a little kale while you're at it?). 

But wait! It gets better...or worse.

Pumpkin gum. Pumpkin Pringles. Pumpkin Oreos. Pumpkin spice sweet burrito. Pumpkin spice candy corn. (Making the worst Halloween candy of all time that much more unpalatable.)  Pumpkin spice English muffins and what better way to top those off than with Pumpkin butter and Pumpkin spiced Jiff peanut butter?

Leave it to America to take a fanciful little idea, a cute concept and then turn it into a mass consumption juggernaut. This season alone, pumpkin themed products will bring in more than a $1 billion in sales. I wonder. Whatever happened to plain old pumpkin pie, the once sole use for our discarded orange gourds, mixed into a pasty concoction, poured into a pie shell and then consumed with a dollop of whip cream twice a year, on Thanksgiving and Christmas?

Call me old school, old fashioned, an old guy who stands on his lawn in sandals, shorts, and high black socks and then yells at the kids to "GET OFF!" Go ahead. I still can't fathom drinking a pumpkin coffee to wash down a pumpkin Twinkie. Nope. 

Instead, just pass the pie.  That's good enough for me.

(Trigger coda: you've just finished reading a piece that has no intellectual caloric value, nor any opinion that really matters. Hope you enjoyed it.)


Monday, October 1, 2018

On Leaves and Leaving As Autumn Settles In

“Two sounds of autumn are unmistakable...the hurrying rustle of crisp leaves blown along the street...by a gusty wind, and the gabble of a flock of migrating geese.”  --Hal Borland

Leave. To depart, to exit, to migrate, to go away from, to put in the rear view mirror, to part, to retire, to go on to something new.

Here's the odd thing I notice every year about the autumn. Spring, summer, winter: these seasons arrive with a bang. They pull up to the curb and bound out of the car and extend a hand and say, "Hello! Glad to be back!" They show up, often very suddenly. In April on a miraculous morning when the buds on the trees seem to have exploded forth overnight. In June when sultry heat arrives and so we drag the air conditioner out of the attic and prepare for the dog days. In December when the sky turns slate grey, and the sun's rays are so diffuse and then we look up and notice the first white flakes, lazily falling in circles to the cold ground.

But not fall.  Fall is about leaving.

Fall gets into the car and says to us, "It's time to go. It's time to leave. Get in."  Fall is always about leaving and leaves, of course. Red and yellow and purple and orange and pink and brown. These spread like a lush technicolor carpet over the mountains, circle a quiet suburban backyard, hang from trees that bend over city streets.  The leaves are so beautiful and yet we know that even as we enjoy this amazing God show, the painting of Creation by the master artist's hand, we know it is all temporary. That soon those same leaves will leave. Fall to the ground. Decay into the soil or get sucked up by the legions of leaf blowing landscapers who invade these parts every November.

Fall is about leaving.

I used to regret, push back against leaving. Who wants to face into the loss of someone or something, this going away? A son or daughter leaves for college and so even as we celebrate that rite of passage, we mourn too, aware of how much we miss the sound of their voice, the footfall of steps as they come down the stairs in the morning.  At the church I serve we recently gave leave to a couple who were members of our community for more than fifty years. The Sunday we said goodbye was bittersweet, filled with gratitude for all they had done for and among us, sure, but grief too, at their departure.  Who wants to face into such goodbyes, such endings?  Not me! And yet....

We need the fall. We need to leave sometimes. We need leaving in this life. 

For the new cannot arrive until the old has made way for it.  A new relationship cannot bloom forth unless we have made peace somehow with the old relationship, the one who is no longer with us. For children to grow up and into the world they will inherit, we adults must know when to hand over such responsibility, say to them, "It is yours' now. Take good care of it."  For the sweet promises of next spring and summer to come true we have to first welcome the fall, and finally close the door on last spring and summer. Pack those seasons up and put them away in the attic so that when all is ready, they can come back out and play next year.

Yes, there is a wisdom to autumn and to leaving. 

So as we move into shorter days and chillier temperatures, as the animals rush to collect forage for the winter, as the geese fly overhead and head south in a cacophony of honks, my prayer is that we can all lean into our natural and personal leave takings with grace and with care. That we can be grateful in the midst of leaving, for the times that are going away and the times that are coming, just up ahead.  In our leaving may we be thankful to our God for the people who come into our lives and bless us, but then have to depart. 

So welcome autumn. It's time to leave.