October Amid a True Fall
And the trees are stripped bare
Of all they wear
What do I care...
And kingdoms rise
And kingdoms fall
But you go on and on...
So go the beautiful lyrics amid a haunting melody offered by my all-time favorite band, U2, in the title track of one of their earliest albums. I grew up in the 80s and played their songs over and over, and each time I would hear "October" I would imagine such trees and the feeling of the shifting wind blowing through my hair.
But alas, I lived in Central Florida and it was still hot across the Fall season and the palm trees never changed.
I've had the benefit of a few true Octobers across my lifetime. I went to college at Florida State in Tallahassee, which is practically southern Georgia. I can still remember sitting in a jam-packed football stadium 19 Falls ago, huddled under a blanket with friends in 40 degree weather as we watched our beloved 'Noles knock off No. 1 ranked University of Miami. It was a true Fall, and I was 21 years old and the entire world was before me for the taking.
A decade or so after that, I had the privilege of living in picturesque Wilmore, Ky., to attend seminary. I can remember late September as that wind I had only imagined as a child became real, whistling and howling and indicating that change was on the way. I was being stretched and challenged to grow spiritually and to develop my leadership skills, and was in a season of tremendous change that mirrored the seasons changing all around me.
Another decade has passed, and I have returned to live, probably for good, in a place where Fall truly happens once again. I look out my kitchen windows into the backyard and see green leaves becoming yellow and golden. I feel that same wind. I feel re-energized. I want to be outdoors, kicking soccer balls and celebrating the basics of life.
Much has changed since my last true Octobers of the late 1990s in Kentucky. I have said hello to two beautiful children, and said goodbye to my father. I have built a career in speaking, coaching and writing. I am older and grayer, and on some days wiser.
But what has not changed is that constant need, to paraphrase U2, to be "stripped bare" of whatever pretenses I wear. To surrender whatever continues to serve as a barricade to authenticity. To deepen my faith, knowing that kingdoms and stock markets and political machines rise and fall but some things go on and on and on.
In my heart and mind I always want it to be October. An enduring sense of anticipation, youth and energy.
There's lots of pragmatic reasons these days to divest oneself of permission to dream. October this year reminds me that to deny the dreams is to deny life itself.