Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Change of Seasons

Summer is over, and today is the official first day of fall...and it arrived with great gusto!  The weatherman actually said it would come in "with a roar," and right on cue the wind began blowing, tree branches snapped, the sky grew dark and heavy, and the rain came down fast and hard.

I really love summer, but I also love fall.  Rather than be torn between the two, I simply give my affections to both!  Although I'm always a little wistful when I put away the lawn furniture, clip the last of my hydrangeas, and forage for one final handful of blackberries, I actually welcome fall and all the glory that it brings...vivid color, golden light, crisp mornings, warm drinks, spicy treats, cozy sweaters, and misty mountains.

This year, there was a very sharp delineation between summer and fall.  Usually summer's long days and languid pace picks up gradually, until it finally gives way to the quicker march of the fall routine.  But this year we had a week of 90-degree weather under a hot September sun, then suddenly a cloudy curtain was pulled down over the bright light and the wind blew Autumn in overnight.  I went from fresh blackberries, sun tea and sheets on the line yesterday to slow-simmered boeuf bourguignon, a raincoat, and candles today!

This summer also brought a rapid change to the seasons of my life.  Kate returned from her year in Bosnia, unpacked, re-packed, and then left for college.  Tyler graduated from college and moved back home.  Anna left for a six-month mission trip to India.  Justin started an internship and began making plans to move out on his own.  In the space of two week's time I moved Kate into the dorms, looked online for apartments with Justin, saw Anna off to India, and lost my job.  Now wait...that certainly wasn't on the calendar!! Suddenly, with a lot less kids and a lot less money, Jeff and I began tossing around phrases like, "Maybe we should downsize."  "A 5-bedroom house is too big for one kid." "Maybe it's time for a change."  We haven't done anything...we're just mulling it all over.

The seasons of life are just so...seasonal.  And that is why each season should be savored for exactly what it is.  I want to give my affection to every season of my life.  I want to enjoy each one to the full and savor the sweetness and the bounty each brings.  And then, despite the wistfulness I may feel as I put away things no longer needed and bid goodbye to a season I love, I want to welcome the next season with anticipation and expectation.  I know it will bring color and warmth to my life, and I'm certain it will be both sweet and spicy!

I finish with this quote by a Turkish playwright.  I have no idea who he is, but I agree with his musing: 

“Love all the seasons, because every season has its own treasures! Winter does not own the treasures of the spring; the spring does not own the treasures of the winter! If you know only the autumn, you are poor; if you know only the summer, you are poor! To be rich, love all the seasons and live all the seasons! A wise and rich man is the one who knows all the treasures of all the seasons!” (Ildan)

And an even better quote:

"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven." (Ecc. 3:1)

Enjoy the change of seasons!  Give your affection to them all!

The first branch to change color!

Mist over the mountain

After the rain

Welcoming Fall with a
Browned-Butter Caramel Apple Cheesecake...

...made with these apples, gathered with
these early-fall fresh-picked fruits

All Good Things Must Come to an End... more good things can come!

It was hard to get up and get going this morning. It’s the first time I’ve really felt tired this whole trip, but I guess all those late nights, early mornings, and miles of walking finally took their toll. We went downstairs for coffee and then right into the family car for the drive to Travnik. This time Kate’s host brother joined us to be our interpreter. But he didn’t want to interpret. His dad would wave at various scenes outside as we drove past and say a lot in Bosnian to Irfan, but Irfan would just say, "He wants me to tell you about the buildings and history and stuff, but it’s stupid." I liked Irfan, he was friendly and funny, but he definitely had "attitude." Still, I had now seen so much of the countryside that I didn’t feel I needed an ongoing commentary. I asked a few questions, and he would translate them to his dad and then translate back the answer, and that was good enough. The day was so different than the last 4 days. The mountains and countryside were very green and the day was overcast and much cooler, with some dark clouds gathering on the horizon. I actually found it refreshing after all the heat and sun. We arrived in Travnik and headed straight for lunch, as the only breakfast we had been served was coffee. It was family cevapi day, much like we would order pizza or burgers. I don’t really enjoy cevapi. It’s not that it tastes bad—it doesn’t—I just can’t handle that huge piece of greasy grilled flatbread and 10 sausages stuffed inside. I tried to order just 5, the smallest portion, but they wouldn’t let me. I only ate 6 of the 10, and #6 was just to be polite. Then I suffered with "cevapi belly," which is what the girls call it, describing how your belly is round and hard after eating them and then you burp for the rest of the day. I would have loved to have ordered just about anything than that!  I don't see how Kate can love it so much!  While we were in the middle of lunch, there was a clap of thunder and within minutes we were in a downpour, with thunder and lightning and a bit of wind. We were on the patio but under a very big umbrella so we were dry, just a bit cold. We ordered coffee to keep us warm while we waited out the storm. This time the coffee came on individual platters, with a Turkish pot, a tiny cup already filled with two sugar lumps, and a tiny spoon. In the other two sections of the tray was a piece of Turkish Delight and a cigarette and box of matches. Yep, for real. First time I’ve ever been given a cigarette! It was pretty funny. My Turkish Delight was crawling with ants. When Esad tried to return it for me, the waiter shrugged it off like no big deal, so Esad traded his piece for mine and then proceeded to eat mine, ants and all! We all laughed. Finally the rain let up enough that we could take umbrellas and start the climb to the fort. Yes, another fort and another climb. I think I’m pretty much an expert fort hiker now! Like Mostar, Travnik also had a rushing river flowing right through town, right through the restaurant, to be exact! It was also sparkling clear and beautiful but not as blue as Mostar’s river. The view from the top was beautiful, of course. The scenery was definitely different though...much more mountainous and much greener. It reminded me of Oregon with all that green and the fresh, rain-washed air. I think that was the first time I thought I might be ready to go home.

The view of Travnik, wrapped in silvery cloud after
the thunderstorm

After we toured the fort, we got in the car and drove a little bit back on the highway before stopping at a massive store called "Fis." This was a cultural experience just as much as the ancient fort! It was like K-Mart on sterioids...huge! It had everything...from groceries and clothing to housewares and hardware, just as any Fred Meyer, Wal-Mart or Super Store would...but it was bigger still. There were funny items, like a megaphone and pieces to construct your own cable dish. There was a music section selling all kinds of guitars, drums, keyboards and amps. There was an appliance section selling washing and dryers, fridges and stoves. Bicycle tires, car tires. It just went on and on. And if that wasn’t enough, there was a Fis version of "Home Depot" to buy lawn mowers, hardwood, bed frames, lighting, soil and fixtures. We systematically and thoroughly toured every department. This was a big deal to Kate’s family. They weren’t going to drive all the way out to Travnik and miss this place! After the first few sections, Irfan lost interest and went off on his own for a cigarette and a nap in the car. When Esad and Nizama were done shopping, purchasing an assortment of household goods and a few candy bars just for good measure, we got back in the car and headed home. And I actually dozed in the car. I never do that! Yes, the trip was over and my body was done physically and mentally. Kate and Irfan, however, went for the full-out, slack-jaw deep sleep for almost the entire return trip. Once home, Kate and I simply re-organized ourselves and headed out to Old Town one last time to finish up a few shopping odds and ends. While we were getting our things together, it began to thunder, then pour, then hail. We stood at the window and watched the storm roll in across the mountains and then, happily, move on. Kate’s dad had some errand to run, so he offered to drive us into town. Two car rides in one day...I was feeling spoiled! We shopped a bit, and I bought some baklava, which I love and had really wanted to try the real thing. Actually, I prefer Lebanese style, which is what we used to buy at the Lebanese bakery when we lived in Edmonton. It’s drier, crisper and more buttery. This was soaked in a super-sweet syrup that, to me, left it soggy and almost tasteless. But, hey, I got the experience, which is the priceless part, right? The last event for the evening was meeting Kate’s youth leader, Kat, for coffee. We had a wonderful visit in a café Kate didn’t even know about...the only one in the city that is nonsmoking! Because almost all Balkans smoke, this was a real treat. It was a nice, quiet end to our day, filled with good conversation, good coffee, and a pleasant atmosphere. We took the bus home for the last time and made the last hill climb. Then we had one last visit with the family and I gave them my thank you gifts and made a little thank you speech for Medina to translate. Then upstairs to pack and fall asleep for the last time to the sound of the birds that sing in the dark and the barking dogs.

I didn’t have to get up early because we didn’t have to leave until 11:15 and I had very little to do.  It was another really great sleep.  I guess I’m getting used to the night sounds and the bed, and the trip probably has caught up to me. I first dressed and went downstairs to say goodbye to Esad, Nizama and Medina before they left for work (they all ride together), and Nizama gave me a bag of goodies...all kinds of Bosnian cookies, chocolates, coffee, and a beautiful scarf. And here I thought I was going to go home with lighter luggage! I showered and then stripped the sheets, ate breakfast, finished packing, and woke up Kate. We then spent the next hour packing her big suitcase, because she has too much to take back by herself. Since I managed to come with only a carry-on, I said I’d take a suitcase of her winter things back with me...bulky items like boots and a winter coat for the cold Bosnian winter. And then, we were done. We got Irfan to call a taxi for us, said goodbye, and then made our way to the airport. It was Kate’s turn to see me off at the airport instead of the other way around! She waited while I cleared security so we could have one last wave goodbye, just like I have always done for her. And then our visit was over. Such a precious time together and such a wonderful experience. Now that it’s finished, I do have to say it was the trip of a lifetime!