By Ken Woodley
Walking down the trails crossing the meadows and forests at Appomattox Court House National Historical Park, I see the seasons playing jazz again.
There are red notes ringing out from green. Orange and yellow notes trumpeting too.
The world around us is singing a new song to the Lord.
And we have the chance to join in with notes of our own.
Sometimes, of course, the weather here in Virginia seems to have no idea what season it is. One day feels like summer. The next feels like fall. The third day resembles a spring day in March.
Every day can feel like a different season and there are literally some days that feel like three, or even four, seasons in one. In fact, we may now have about 27 seasons instead of just four: all of them hybrids.
I can relate because, like any human being, I have seasons of my own and sometimes they are just as mixed up. In the morning, I may have a summer mood, especially as the caffeine kicks in. But then something may happen to make my happy enthusiasm begin to freeze and snow. Or I might suddenly feel all of my leaves start to fall from their limbs.
So, looking at the world around me as I follow the curving undulations of the land, and see what is fast-becoming one giant stained-glass window of leaf color, I recognize myself in this turn of the season.
The good, the bad, and the ugly.
Some tree limbs are already bare, as if all of their notes have already been played and they are ready to leave the stage for winter.
That’s a sad and pessimistic thought, but not so fast. Bare limbs silhouetted against the sky can play some of the most resonant seasonal notes of all. Let us each learn the lesson of the trees, with our without leaves. We’ve all got a song to sing. Our own particular notes. The unique melody that God has given us to play.
That never stops. Summer, fall, winter and spring. And then round and round the seasons again, all mixed up and maybe all at the same time.
With all due respect to classical composers, the interplay and passage of the seasons—as with the passage of our lives—seems far too improvised to be anything but jazz: play what you feel when you feel it within the basic structure of life’s song.
Certainly, there are specific times when seasons officially begin. That organizational structure does, yes, have a classical ring to it because the seasons can be likened to symphonic movements. But, within those prescribed months when the four seasons are each individually and officially recognized, there is a wide latitude for what the season will actually look and feel like to us and the creatures that share the world with us.
So, the reality is entirely jazz.
On a recent morning before we had all this rain, the drought had one small bird so desperate that I saw it drinking the dew from the roof of my car. I’d never seen that before and it illustrated, even more than the burned-out yards and fields, how dry things had become. So, I decided to rain—that is, I filled a pitcher of water and poured it in the birdbath.
I was able to end the drought, for one small creature and for that brief moment.
Then, yesterday I walked in the late afternoon. The slanting of the sun’s setting rays shone through the leaves of a maple tree. The beauty was compelling. Each leaf was a crown jewel.
The lesson for me was: no matter what season is in the world, or what season I feel on any given day, if I let God shine through my leaves, or on my bare limbs, then I am giving the world the best that I have to give.
Only with God can I do so. Even when I think it’s only me. Even in a drought, God can make me rain for someone somewhere. Just as God as done for me, through others, during my own droughts.
God bringing me summer in the depths of winter. Turning darkness into light because God has transformed someone’s heart into a saxophone and inspired them to play jazz in my life until my season changes.
The grace of it all becomes multiplied when I remember some of their most powerful notes and join them with my own when I next play during a moment of silent winter for someone else, filling them with the blooms of spring.
I’ve learned this to be the truth:
We’re all stained-glass waiting for the sun. Have faith. It will shine through us and for us. God’s love is not a season.