Every year I feel it and try to ignore it - at least for a while. For I let go of summer quite unwillingly and in a year like this, with a short summer season at best, I am foot-stomping reluctant to move into winter. To ignore it I may try, but the cooling, darkening, slowing pace of other life around me finally pulls me down to the rhythm of Fall-heading-toward-Winter.
I do know the signs: an unwillingness to rise early; an appetite for hearty, warm meals; less inclination to dig in cold, damp earth; spending evenings snuggled under quilts and nights sleeping under flannel and wool. Like a willful child, who loudly shouts that "I will NOT take my winter's rest!" I am led to a quiet place, where weariness is acknowledged and rest is finally accepted.
For many of us, summer can be a time of busyness. We eagerly dive into barbecues, gardening, vacations, camping, traveling and attending a variety of community events. There are yards to care for, special outings, children to transport here and there, and never-ending activities for everyone in the family. For many, these are added to an already full work schedule. Fall brings the return to school, regular work schedules, and a plethora of activities related to those. Is it any wonder we grow weary?
In the days when our ancestors grew and harvested their own crops and stored them for the winter ahead, fall was a time of gradually gearing down. There was still wood to be chopped and animals to care for, but many activities changed with the seasons. There's no doubt that winter was still a working time, but the pace slowed. Sewing, quilting, mending of clothing and equipment often took place by lamplight and with lengthening darkness the working hours became less. In many cultures and areas, this became a time for socializing, story-telling, and sharing meals, especially when the weather limited travel.
Birds, squirrels, and other animals have raised their young, so are less frenzied in their search for food. Various types of dens and nests are prepared and many creatures are ready for longer sleeps or hibernation. Some, like insects, have lived their lives and are now gone, leaving behind their eggs or pupae to carry on next year.
Deciduous trees and shrubs slowly change color and drop their leaves, putting their stored energy into slowly developing new buds for spring. Conifers and other evergreens slow their production of sugars and other nutrients and go into resting states. Many plants die off, depending on their underground root systems or scattered seeds to carry on next year. For all of them, their heavy work of the year is done and it is time for rest.
Perhaps there is a lesson here for us, also. "To rest" does not mean that our work is done. It does not mean that we have necessarily completed a task or abandoned it. It certainly does not mean that we are lazy, shiftless, or unmotivated. Rest is vital to a healthy existence - our bodies, minds, and souls require it to function well. We all need a break sometimes - whether an hour, a day, a week, or several months. For if God took time to rest, certainly we can.
There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest...