The calendar says that there are three weeks left of summer, up here in the northern hemisphere; but today was full of autumn leaves, red and gold and fallen. Clearly, my calendar is not fully in control of the seasons.
Like most people, I have experienced many times and seasons feeling out of control. Parents learn the feeling quickly. Or maybe we just remember; children get it, too.
When smallest child was very small, she very suddenly and dramatically developed asthma. This diagnosis hit me in the pit of my stomach. Since childhood I have been haunted by my brother’s asthmatic attacks, and one particular night when all was dark and I was pretending sleep while he resisted any attempts by our mother to soothe his raw attempts at breath. “Can you die of asthma?” he asked her. I never heard a reply. That silence haunted me until that lunchtime in the doctor’s office in Singapore, with my own rasping, gasping child.
When she was still very small, I would sneak into her room at night and count her breathing.
As out of whack as it sounds, I was thinking about those days of worrisome watching when eldest cat was diagnosed with diabetes last week. The first day of injecting him with insulin, I was worried about hypoglycaemia, which, in cats, can be as strikingly obvious as a seizure, or as frustratingly vague as “acting differently.” Given that I spent much of the day tracking him down and asking him if he was feeling ok, and given what we know about the act of observation inherently changing the thing observed, especially cats …
Teaching them to drive, too. Children, not cats. All of the responsibility sitting in the passenger seat while all of the control is one seat and a million miles away.
Sometimes, it is possible to reduce the responsibility (pay someone else to teach them), or to increase control (install dual controls in the family car). Most of the time, we’re left fretting about the cat in the box.
So where does that leave summer, and my autumn leaf?
Today has been designated as a World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. One might feel a certain degree of responsibility to do one’s part for the sustainability of the planet and its seasons, without owning as an individual a great deal of control. The options to palm off our responsibility are few: cats are notoriously indifferent to reducing any kind of warming. The only way to increase our control over climate change, clean water, a cared-for creation is to own it.
“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15)
Lord God, forgive us our failings. Teach us humility, our place in creation less one of control than one of service, and of love. Teach us beauty, to see and to sustain and to preserve what you have made out of wonderment. Teach us gratitude, for the food of the earth, the fruit of creation, the labour of love that is life. Help us to till and to keep your garden, to restore its glory, to return all glory to you. Amen.