The Americans have a phrase that they sometimes use when saying “Goodbye” and it is “Missing you already.” This is a bit how I feel as I slowly watch the seasons change in this beautiful place in which I have been so privileged to work for the last four years, and know that I will never again have the opportunities I now live with daily.
Ever since the late spring when I knew I was retiring, I have been very conscious of the passing of the days; the subtle movements through the seasons. I am aware that I am living through many of the things that give me so much delight at Launde for the last time. For example, the house martins and swallows who come with such joie de vivre and energy to Launde in the spring have been practicing their breath taking aerial acrobatics for the last few days. I know that this is a sign that they will soon be gone. Sky bombing, wheeling and climbing, they give us such delight before leaving for their long pilgrimage south for the winter. I don’t like it when they go. The world seems a slightly less joyful place. It is easy to get maudlin.
About two weeks ago, I realised that a beautiful bush which I can see from my office window and which slowly turns red and gold and then into a dazzling fire; this had already begun its seasonal change. What with this and the swallows, I had to admit that:-
Autumn is coming and I am missing Launde already.
But then, I woke up. As I “turned aside” to look at my burning bush, I realised that of course that turning aside is the moment when we stop what we are doing and in the present moment see what is in front of us. The phrase, turning aside, means just that. We stand aside from out busyness, from our routine, from our driven-ness and hurry; we pause and wait and see now. My melancholic wrapping everything around with a future sense of loss means that I am not able to be very simply here in the present. The invitation, to paraphrase the words of poet, Mary Oliver, is mostly to stand still, learning to be astonished. So I need to learn to stand still. I need to learn astonishment at all the beauty I see because, at present, I take it all so much for granted. I need to stop thinking about what I have to say goodbye to and trust that God has other wonders to show me and other experiences I need to learn for, in the words of another poet, Robert Frost there are “miles to go before I sleep.”