￼Times of Transition and Gratitude
By Heather Melton, UTO Staff Officer
For many of us, August is a time of transition. Summer comes to an end, and the school year begins. I remember being surprised when I graduated from college how the world seems to follow the school calendar even if you don’t have kids or aren’t attending school yourself. It’s also hard to miss as the summer items go on sale and the back-to-school section takes over most stores. Churches, civic groups, and others amp up their events and offerings as the school year begins, while many of us try to squeeze in a few more days at the pool or cookouts. Times of transition can often be busy because the events of one season overlap the events of the next. The busy nature of transitions means we must work extra hard at our gratitude practices so we don’t miss out on noticing all the good that one season offered us before we dive into the next. A long time ago I was given the really good advice that “you have to end well in order to start well” in terms of job changes, but I think this is also true for any transitions we face. So how do we go about ending summer well in the midst of preparing for fall? I think we do it through gratitude, celebration, and hope.
One of the things I look forward to most in the summertime is the abundance of good produce. As the practice of trying to eat locally and seasonally took off, I realized I was already a bit of a practitioner because I am a fruit snob. I love strawberries, but here in the West, they are only good for a few weeks in the spring, which is the only time I will buy them. I’ve been known to be at the farmers market when it opens to get some before they sell out. Watermelon and peaches are also some favorites of mine, but I wait for the moment at the end of July when they are finally ripe in my area. (And then I lament the last one that comes in late August/early September that’s not great and signifies the end of summer fruit.) I think because I wait until things are in season, I anticipate and appreciate them more. This means that by the time one season comes to an end, I have a great deal of gratitude and a bit of sadness. One of my kids joins me in this sentiment, and both children love to help me can peaches for later in the year and make jam from the overabundance of fruit that we inevitably purchase out of the joy that summer fruit brings. We freeze sweet corn for use in winter soups and try to pack away as much of the summery goodness that we can. For me, this practice of “putting things away for winter” is a part of the gratitude for summery goodness, and while we’re working over a hot stove in the final hot days of summer, we all take time to give thanks for a great summer.
I think these seasonal practices are really important in helping us remember that one of our key acts as Christians is to love God and care for creation. When we take time during transitions to practice gratitude, I think it can help us notice all the amazing things that God is doing in creation. We can notice that the summer watermelons fade away to fall pumpkins, and the abundance of zucchini becomes an abundance of butternut squash. One thing makes way for another, and all of it is reason to rejoice. When we take the time to practice gratitude as one season ends and the next begins, it helps us to end and begin well. I think we all know when we’ve bought one watermelon too many and it is time to stop until next summer. Instead of lamenting that the time is past, give thanks for the time that was and prepare for what is next.
I hope as the transition from summer to fall takes place in your area, you will use gratitude as a way to give thanks for what was and to create space to welcome what is coming. What can you put away for winter from summer that will bring you joy on a dark, cold day that will help you practice gratitude again? What things do you look forward to with anticipation that are coming this fall – perhaps new crayons, freshly roasted green chiles, and the changing color of leaves? I hope that you will join me in being present to this time of transition, helping summer to end well so fall can start well by giving thanks for all that God is doing through creation and responding to his invitation to care for those changes and give thanks for them.