October is the most colorful month in the Ohio Valley. The trees blaze up before the summer flowers die; we still have roses and geraniums, more and more raggedy from the chilly nights but still alive. All the way up until the end, there’s a dotting of pink and red against the orange and gold patchwork. And just in the last gasp of warmth, the spring wildflowers bloom a little, one last time. Whoever said purple and green don’t grow together has never seen violets and red clover growing on a green lawn under a bright red oak in late October. It goes on through the month of November, fading gently day after day, vestiges of spring and summer– spring violets and tired, raggedy roses drooping under a blanket of leaves.
Once in awhile, we even get autumn lilacs– a few stray blossoms on the bushes, just before the frost. I dreamed of those last night. I dreamed I was admiring a dew-covered lilac bush in full bloom under warm sun. I lifted one bunch of flowers to my face. The dew splashed me; bees buzzed harmlessly past my ears. The perfume overwhelmed me, and then I woke up.
It was November 20th, the Latin Feast of Christ the King– the day before the Entrance of the Theotokos on my Eastern calendar– and it was snowing hard.
I hope I never get so old that I’m not excited at the first snow. I quickly woke my daughter, Rosie. I threw on jeans, buttoned my pajama top, and went out to make snowballs.
The snow had not quite covered the grass; it hadn’t touched the pile of leaves my daughter raked up yesterday. We could barely scrape up enough for a quick snowball fight. Then it was inside for breakfast and out to play again.
I don’t remember whose idea it was to go sledding. We both knew it wouldn’t work, but we wanted to try anyway. Rose brought her battered green saucer sled out of the basement and I wiped the bugs off. She dragged it by a string down the wet sidewalks, to the sledding hill in the wealthy part of the neighborhood. The trees were still orange. I saw a few roses fading out under the snowfall. My Rose jumped in and out of a few piles of crackling dead leaves in her bright pink snowsuit. The grass, beneath the snowy patches, was green.
Rose put the sled at the top of the steepest incline and demanded a big push.
I pushed. It was no use. It was neither snowy nor muddy enough to slip down. We dragged the sled back to our house and made hot chocolate– real hot chocolate, the kind that tastes like cream and chocolate, not the kind that comes out of packets.
O happy fault of our first parents, that death entered into nature and the cycle of the year, but was transformed into beauty by the grace of God– that trees go dormant by blaring into glorious color, that roses die off slowly against a background of gold, that purple flowers rise up for a moment before the frosts come. O unspeakable mystery, that my mind conjures dream lilacs when the weather fades to ice and snow outside. O brilliant consolation, that November’s fade to gray is covered so quickly with the blanket of sparkling white.
Christ the King of Times and Seasons draws the year to a close. The Theotokos enters into the temple, where she will hide and serve until the hour for her fiat, her journey to Bethlehem and her flight into Egypt. Frost covers the roses and snow hides them from our sight. The violets and red clover breathe their last until the spring. We dream of lilacs and wake to snow. We ready our sleds and find green grass. Saint Philip’s Fast has already begun, and the Latin season of Advent is nearly here. Soon, we will follow the star to the crib, looking for a king, and see a homeless child. When we look upon the child, we will see the Teacher; when we listen for the Teacher, we will hear Man of Sorrows expelled from the city and slaughtered as an unclean thing. When we look upon Him we have Pierced, we will see Christ the King, and in seeing Him we will see eternity.
Eternity is our home. In this, our exile, we live in Time. In Time, we find autumn slipping into winter, and it looks like snow on roses.
(image via Pixabay)