Michelle Martin

End times

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

It was dark when I got up this morning. At almost 7 a.m.

And last night, driving home, Teresa wondered if those kids should still be playing soccer under the lights in the park. It was about 7:30 p.m., but it seemed far later because it was so dark outside.

We’ve reached the time of year when we have noticeably fewer hours of sunlight than darkness, the turning of the year that has been the prompt for everything from harvest festivals to thoughts of our forebears in Mexico’s Día de los Muertos and the feasts of All Saints and All Souls, and even the fear of the dead coming back as in the Celtic Samhain, the precursor to our Halloween.

This time of year, when in the Northern Hemisphere the growing season ends and the light diminishes, is a time when our thoughts turn to the end of life. Even our Scriptures march toward Jerusalem, the scene of Jesus’ death, in the lead-up to the feast of Christ the King, although they stop short of the actual crucifixion before beginning the anticipation of Advent.

The thing is, I love this time of year. I love the contrast of the burst of autumn color — late in arriving with warm, dry weather late into the season this year — that gives way to stark, bare branches only a week or two later. I love the sudden change from almost-warm-enough-for-shorts to we’d-better-dig-out-the-winter-coats, the wind blowing and the leaves swirling and crunching underfoot.

I enjoy the pumpkin carving and apple picking and costume creating, too, as we celebrate a time when it seems that anything might be possible, and if anything is possible, then any of us could be anyone. Or, I suppose, anything. Teresa plans to be a cow for Halloween this year, because she thinks they’re cute. I am glad, at least, that she still wants to trick-or-treat, to engage that most transgressive of holiday traditions: begging for candy from strangers.

Soon enough, autumn will end and winter will begin, and we’ll reach the solstice just before Christmas, welcoming the Christ-light into the world just as our daylight begins to increase again. We’ll be in Advent long before then, and children will be reminded to mind their manners so as not to land on Santa’s naughty list. What a contrast from the wildness of Halloween!

But that, after all, is why we can enjoy this time. We welcome the end of the year as a chance to celebrate what came before, and prepare for what is to come. The end is not an end at all, merely the gateway to a new beginning. Another chance to find out who it is — what it is — we are called to be.


  • family life