The days have turned cool and windy, marking the change from “late summer” to “early winter.” At first, autumn is the delightful climax to summer but it turns quickly to a foretaste of winter. Its nippy air closes us in on ourselves. We no longer walk outdoors and open ourselves to soak in the warmth. We gather our own warmth about us to guard us from the cold. The leaves, last week so beautiful, are losing their flash of glory and surrendering their grip on the cold branches.
But, in one of those “coincidences” for which we cannot help but thank God, Char and I spent the last three days of warm, colorful autumn at a Bed n’ Breakfast in northern Wisconsin. The air was fresh and pleasant, the sky a deep blue, the waters of Lake Superior calm, and the trees emblazoned with deep hues of yellow, gold, and red.
Sometimes when the words “Thank you, Lord” spring from my heart, my mind — as if resentful of how much pleasure I am finding — tries to insist on a more sterile rationality. “The leaves are dying; Photosynthesis is stopping and the hidden colors are emerging. That’s all there is to autumn.” I find myself feeling sorry for those poor folk like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens who cannot dare to enjoy the fullness of life but fearfully reduce it to mere materialism and naturalism.
There are times, like those days in the forests of Wisconsin, when the miraculous beauty is simply more important than scientific explanations. Those who cannot thank God for the gift of autumn are spiritually impoverished. For them, all existence is but a series of meaningless coincidences.
What good is a flaming red tree or a rich golden leaf if we cannot say, “Thank you, Lord”?