The Shelter of Dying Time

It’s turning on us.

Those long, listless, forever days of sunshine and water are disappearing, lavender fields and hydrangea perfuming the air, playing time with our bare feet pounding over dusty, worn out crosscuts, floating like bubbles that will soon pop.

Those days were warm with heavy rain and deafening thunder that swirled ominous clouds as I gripped the oar handle to throw it to the steel bottom, spread my arms out, and lay back on the canoe as big, fat drops soaked my clothes through and smeared my hair against my forehead, dripped from my darkened skin, pelted my eyelids, and left the scent of



and rebirth.

Those purling clouds came again, churning the deep sea waves in and around and over themselves, belching up black seaweed, broken bits of shell, and rotten fish as I roved the beach with my daughters who are as tall as I am, down to the pier at high tide.  The storm wind-whipped our shirts up around our waists as we hurried back and the humid, oppressive rain started falling in sheets.  We stamped puddles in the elevator and crashed on smooth, white linen beds with the windows thrown open and the ceiling fans whirring as we listen to the pelting summer storm in July.

There was one last swim in September.

It was with my friends on the lake; we were rushing before we faded and the summer dissipated like fog the weekend before the equinox.  We hauled up wooden ladders to corrugated plastic slides fitted with garden hoses and took turns flying down them, ricocheting against the lake water before submerging ourselves in the inky depths as we all hooted and cheered and belly laughed at one another.  We slipped and rolled through the calm underneath, over and under, coming up slowly for air.  We conversed as our arms pushed H2O atoms aside and kicked until we reached the opposite bank of the lake and found bearing with our feet in the sand. I had swum in my clothes and I stood there with my shorts dripping, my shirt plastered, and my hand shielding squinting eyes.  The sun shone warm in these dying days of summer.  That evening it cooled, and we arched our necks to trace the Milky Way, thousands of stars popping out like 3D against the onyx night sky while my friend pointed at constellations with a laser, giving a lesson to our students about planets and supernovas.

The next morning we woke early and gulped thin coffee in the camp cafeteria as I rubbed sleep from my eyes, pushed my clear plastic frames against my nose, and listened to the sound of my male colleagues talk, missing my dad and my brother.  As they shared stories I wrestled my blonde tangles into a messy bun, still sneezing from the water up my nose from the slide run.  My right ear was plugged.  We have a skit to perform in a couple hours I told myself, but my throat is scratchy and my headache is unyielding.  I wouldn’t trade camp life at all.

Those sheltering stars in dotted waves of enveloping galaxy remind me of Sukkot, the feast of tabernacles, as we hunker down into tiny cabins for the night.  The feast commemorates safety given in vulnerability.  We have all been naked and exposed, but Sukkot reminds us we are covered over, sheltered in the wilderness by the mercy of a God who raises the poor from the suffocating dust, carries the slave out of captivity to give them a place, a home of their very own.  In September the Hallel is recited, the psalms that ask why the seas are churned up, swirling, fleeing.

What ails you, O sea? Why do you tremble, looking behind you?

I AM has come.

It is the presence of God that the hurricane waters fear, and they rage.  It is the presence and mercy of God that shelters and covers His people in the wilderness, when the dying time comes.

After those joy days, when twilight races in quickly and the evening chill bites through, leaves start to loose their grip on their lifeblood then crinkle and fall to the grave of earth in finality.  In this wilderness of the dying time, life is sawed away, and we are reminded of the brevity, the fragility, the joy of life, and our shelter can be the Lord only and not we ourselves.

Those leaves are gathered and burned like carcasses, their smoky substance rising like sacrifice to the hovering stars.  Impeding winter comes, but not before we give thanks in rich, blessed fields of harvest that are colored gold and dripping in wealth.


grass field during golden hour
Photo by Zhanzat Mamytova on

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