Before We Fall

Image by Esmie Fisher
Image by Esmie Fisher

By Doug Jackson

On September 13, 1929, Ernest Hemingway wrote to his pal F. Scott Fitzgerald, “Summer is a discouraging time to work — you don’t feel death coming on the way it does in the fall when the boys really put pen to paper.” For Papa, who later asserted that “all stories, continued far enough, end in death,” this made the autumnal equinox, just a few days off, a sort of starter’s pistol for his literary efforts.

We don’t really have autumn here on the coast of the Republic of Texas. The leaves don’t turn. We don’t get to tog up in jackets and scarves. But we do have the first cold front of the season, those blue northers that blow down out of the Arctic Circle and plunge temperatures by thirty degrees in a matter of minutes. During such a time I began pondering the equinox. The term literally means “equal night” and refers to the point, twice in each year, when day and night are the same length. These come in fall and spring and space the solstices, when either light (midsummer) or dark (winter) gains the upper hand. The whole thing put me in mind of balance, and of the precarious pause in which we can listen to the God who appears in Scripture as both the source of light and wrapped in darkness.

Hemingway sought to face the hard truths of life, but missed the greater truth of eternal life. Poet Malcolm Guite insists in his song “The Open Door,” “Some see only a graveyard ahead/But I see an open door.” So as autumn arrives, as we pause in a moment when the life of summer and the death of winter seem to hold an uneasy detente, let’s take a moment to stop and ponder.

Autumnal Equinox

Pause at this breathless balance for a spell.
Enjoy this equipoise of day and night,
This stilled millwheel of equal dark and light.
Pause at this breathless balance for a spell.

Pause at this breathless balance for a spell.
Don’t fear – the rolling year in all its might
Will soon resume the never-ending flight.
Pause at this breathless balance for a spell.

Pause at this breathless balance for a spell:
A still, small voice unwinds what haste binds tight.
Since in delay there lies a new delight,
Pause at this breathless moment for a spell.

Let your kind lord all quarrels quietly quell.
Pause at this breathless moment for a spell.

*****

Doug Jackson is a preacher/professor/poet who after a quarter-century in the pastorate now teaches spiritual formation, pastoral ministry, and Greek for the Logsdon Seminary program at the South Texas School of Christian Studies in Corpus Christi. His collection of poetry, Nothing There is Not More, is available from Finishing Line Press.

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