Indian Summer

The calendar says it’s late September, but Mother Nature says otherwise.  It is apple-picking time…a time that is typically home to the crisp, cool weather of fall.

This weather, though, with temperatures hovering around 90 degrees, belongs to July or August…not September.  And for all of us in the orchard, from the apple pickers to the tractor drivers, it means overheating.

The apple pickers’ shirts get darker with sweat every time they climb the ladder and fill their picking bags with red-green apples.  Even the most dedicated pickers stop often for short breaks and sit under the shade of the nearest tree.  The least dedicated take two hour breaks and nap under the trees.  The heat is drowsy.  The air is thick.

I can feel the heat pressing in on me from the forklift…the heat from the sun mixes with the heat pouring from the exhaust.  My sun hat is perched on my head and the sleeves of my short-sleeved t-shirt are rolled up revealing quickly browning skin.  Jacob drives by on his tractor, stripped of his shirt, pants exchanged for shorts, one leg propped up.  Larry keeps the door of the cab of his tractor open as he runs down the rows, trying to get some air into the heat box that his tractor has become.

It has not rained in many days.  As the tractors drop off and pick up boxes of apples, they leave trails of dust behind them that float in the air and rest on everything around them, including the sweat beading on my face.  I reach up to scratch an itchy place on my neck, and my fingernail comes back black.

There is a buzzard that is circling the trees.  I wonder if he, too, is hot, searching for a breeze.  Or maybe he sees the apple picker napping under the trees and is wondering if perhaps, here, he has found a meal.

I reach up and wipe the sweat from my face with the sleeve of my shirt before it drips bitter saltiness into my eye.  I am dripping with sweat.

But then, we all are…

here in the heady dog days of an Indian summer.

Finding the Sunshine in the Shadows

I was made for scattering buckets of grain, a drift of dust on the air coming to rest in my hair, a smile curling my lips.  The cattle run eagerly down the hill to greet me, their tails flicking happily and the bits of ground corn sticking to their noses.

I was made for the words that walk across my brain and tremble in my chest.  My fingers ache to share them, pushing alphabet buttons and gripping at pencils.

I was made for running along the tops of a row of sun-drenched hay bales, arms outstretched and laughter in my eyes.  I’ve been doing this for years, friends.

I was made for sitting in the grass next to the barn, this year’s batch of kittens tackling my shoelaces and purring at my elbow.

I was made for wandering the Michigan hills; for standing atop solid Kentucky rock.  My hands ready for work, my heart turned to God.

I was made for finding the sunshine in the shadows.  The cold shadows of pain cannot overcome the warmth of the sun shining on a world that, amidst all its brokenness, is still beautiful.

I have been there…

those cold places where nothing seems to be as it should…but I was not made for those cold places.  I know this now.

…and neither were you.  You are not alone.  You never have been, and you never will be.

So stay, friends.

Because you were made for so much more than that ache inside.

Stay.

I wrote this in honor of National Suicide Prevention Week.  I got the idea from To Write Love on Her Arms’s “I was made for…”/Stay campaign, that encourages people to think about all of the things that they were made for…and what they and the world would be missing without them.  If we are going to find out everything we are made for in this world, then we need to stay.  Here in this mix of beauty and pain, of shadow and sunshine, there is always hope.