Autumn Update

The older I get, the more I repeat myself, so you may have heard this before: I would take six months of October. A half year of crisp, cool, color-filled autumn; about six weeks of snowy white winter between Thanksgiving and roughly New Year’s Day, and the balance a long, blooming spring that turns green but never quite gets hot.

If ever I find the right combination of latitude and altitude, I’ll be gone. You’re welcome to visit.

We’re currently blessed with a beautiful October here in Minnesota. The leaves turned from green to gold, red, orange, and bright yellow in a few short days, it seemed; a thunderstorm stripped the top two-thirds of one tree across the street, but left the others intact, and even a sticky, wet snowfall earlier this week served only to make the color pop before vanishing into the soil before noon.

This morning the rooftops are coated in pale frost, but the ground is wet and smells like year’s end. Indoors, coffee’s in my cup, bluegrass is on the radio, and a whiff of the furnace’s first burnings is blowing up from the registers. It’s gonna be a good day.

What’s new with you?

In our neck of the woods, it’s a typically busy fall, but in many atypical ways:

  • It’s fundraising season. Jodi and I helped to organize this year’s Friends of the Poor Walk for our local Society of St. Vincent de Paul, which raised more than $11,000 for those is need in our local community and broke 100 walkers for the first time. That event, plus our church’s annual Fall Festival, our Catholic school’s Marathon Color Run, and more, mean our weekends and our hearts have been fuller than usual since September began.
  • Lily is our only child at home now. She’s a member of the Animal Chorus (a fox!) in an upcoming production of Winnie-the-Pooh, plays simple songs on her guitar, and is now learning clarinet as well. She is adjusting to playing a larger role in the household chores, cooking one meal a week for Jodi and me, and saving for an aquarium full of fish. And we are adjusting to not having an extra driver for the first time in many years!
  • Trevor has settled in at Saint John Vianney College Seminary (SJV). We visited him last Saturday for Parent’s Weekend at the University of St. Thomas, attended evening prayer and dinner with all the college seminarians and their families, then cheered SJV to victory in the Rector’s Bowl, an annual, highly competitive flag football game between SJV and the major (graduate-level) seminarians from Saint Paul Seminary. Trevor met us on the quad as we walked over from the parking garage, and even his manner as he greeted us was different. He seems comfortable and at peace even after just six weeks. I was struck again, as I was when we dropped him off, that he is entering a world into which I cannot go. Even at dinner with him, I sensed a distance—not a bad sort, but a feeling that he is secure in himself and his own space, even when others are near. It’s beautiful.
  • Gabe visits multiple times a week. After four years of travel and busy-ness elsewhere with NET Ministries, he’s living in Saint Paul but working for our parish, so he’s around a lot again. Sometimes we know he’s coming and prepare a meal; sometimes, if he has youth-minister responsibilities the following day, he spends the night—and sometimes he just shows up, opens the fridge for a bite, and works, prays, or naps before his next meeting or activity. He and Lily watch Phineas and Ferb or play Minecraft or other games together; I see him at staff meetings at the church; and Jodi frets over his commute despite the fact that this young man has piloted a van and trailer across our country and back, and has navigated several of the biggest cities in the U.S. It’s great to spend time with him, especially considering that this time next year, God willing, he’ll be living with the Community of Friars of the Renewal (CFRs) on the East Coast, discerning religious life as a Franciscan.
  • Emma returns from the University of Mary to visit today! She and a group of friends visited a family farm in Wisconsin the last day or so; this afternoon they are coming here for a visit, a bonfire and good food, then rest and Mass before returning to Bismarck. One of the great joys of parenting adult children has been watching our grown sons and daughters interact with their friends and young adults, seeing them bloom into the men and women God is calling them to be. I can’t wait to see them all—but especially Rosebud, our original girl-baby. I miss her.
  • Brendan, Becky, and the boys are adjusting to life in Rome. You might think that this level of distance would make us less busy, but thanks to Messenger, Facetime, and Marco Polo, we actually see a great deal of our globe-trotting family. Becky also maintains a weekly video blog, so we see highlights of their Italian life, like Chuckito-Burrito’s papal kiss. It’s a blessing to be able to share our lives in these ways and to look forward to a visit to Italy, God willing, this spring!
  • And work is jumping! Life as a contract writer and editor is good, if hectic. In addition to my primary role as communications manager for our home parish, I had fall newsletters due for two clients in September (and Advent issues for both due in November), a big freelance article for a new client (big meaning, because it was both short and in-depth, it required a lot of thought and editing), and a speech for my former boss from the University of Minnesota, plus a speaking engagement for a group of mostly young mothers on the topic of marriage over the long haul. Even in retrospect, I get winded, and Jodi’s work life has been no less busy!

Then we have the typical fall hustle and bustle: yard work, harvesting our shared garden with the Engels and their neighbors, canning, cleaning out the freezer for freshly butchered pork and beef coming this fall, and brewing a batch of good, strong Belgian ale in time for the holidays.

Jodi, Lily, Gabe, and I are headed to Michigan to visit my folks next week. We plan to go the northern route, across the Upper Peninsula; that’s my typical route, made more poigniant by the fact that this could be Gabe’s last trek across the U.P.—discernment of religious life takes several years, and if he takes the gray habit and final vows, travel will be limited and subject to obedience. Our son wants to see his beloved home state, and we are happy to oblige.

Hopefully the colors aren’t too far past peak. Autumn is a blessing worth basking in.

The sun is glittering through fiery, flickering leaves outside our front year. It is time. Enjoy the day, dear friends.

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