By Debbie Gin
…or so I thought. When friends or family decide on a venue for dinner, I typically get annoyed if additional options are mentioned after the decision’s been made because that means we waste more time considering the pros/cons of those options instead of proceeding right away to the restaurant. It doesn’t help that I’m not a “foodie,” but change has always felt unreliable to me.
It’s now been a year since we’ve been on what Californians call “the East Coast.” (Pittsburgh’s actually Midwest, but anything east of Texas is East Coast to Californians; personally, I enjoyed being in “East Hawaii” most of my life.) Now, being in a climate where we actually experience seasons, it’s been fun to reflect on what that can mean.
A very early observation I made about the weather was that with four seasons in 12 months (versus California’s two seasons—actually, one season—in 12 months), weather patterns change more rapidly. Just as we were getting used to Fall (yes, the colors were indescribable!), it seemed that Winter was upon us. And, while folks here in Pittsburgh were complaining about how long the winter was this year, we realized we’d missed our last opportunity to take that “ussie” out on the frozen lake because everything was thawing for Spring.
So I began to enjoy change, albeit reluctantly. I found I was simultaneously wishing the previous season would linger a bit and enjoying the newness of a different pattern.
Another observation. The glory of Fall colors comes with a secret never mentioned or captured in scenic autumnal photos. When the leaves fall, you’re left with bare trees intermingled with the colorful reminders of passing summers. The overall effect is what I began to call “gray hair”: a gorgeous mountainside of fire reds, golden oranges, and velvet maroons with spots of “aging” that spread as each day passed. At first, the bare spots depressed me. They felt like glory faded. Loss. Death. I didn’t welcome this change at all. Then as the gray hair became more prevalent, I realized something about Fall’s passing into Winter: the loss of leaves allowed me to see through the trees. I was finally able to catch a glimpse of the inner workings of the forest; I was able to see what was beyond the forest. It was the same scene, but everything was more transparent. Clearer. Free of the encumbrances of a youthful vanity.
I continue to wonder whether to let my own naturals grow without root touchups. Having taken after my mom and grayed prematurely, I don’t think I’m there yet. But I like what I’ve learned from the mountain’s gray hairs: there’s a clarity of vision — of life — that I can anticipate there. And I’m learning to embrace this change as well.
Dr. Debbie Gin is Director of Faculty Development and Research at The Association of Theological Schools/Commission on Accrediting, the support and accrediting organization of most seminaries in the US and Canada. She was formerly Associate Professor of Ministry at Azusa Pacific Seminary and Fellow for Faculty Development and Evaluation in the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment at Azusa Pacific University. She and her husband currently live in Pennsylvania.