Earth tilts. She leans 23.4 degrees on her axis. In his book, My Story as Told by Water, David James Duncan describes Planet Earth in these words: “…like a long-ago-injured woman who’s learned to walk gracefully with a cane, Earth leans ever so slightly on her axis, inclining now toward the sun, now away from it as she orbits, thereby causing the angle at which sunlight strikes her to change constantly.”
Why does the Earth tilt? Scientists say, during its formation, the Earth suffered ten giant collisions. In one of them, a rock the size of Mars smashed into the Earth resulting not only in the tilt, but also our Moon! We tend to think of collisions and tilts as “bad,” or, at least, “imperfections.” Yet Earth’s “painful” collisions gave us our beautiful Moon. And her tilt blesses us with the four seasons.
In places like northeastern Ohio where I live, it’s impossible to forget Earth’s tilt, for it results in four dramatically different seasons. We go from hot, humid days in summer with temperatures in the 90s to cold, snowy days in winter with temperatures in the teens. Earth’s tilt is thus responsible for the annual cycle of growth, fruition, death, dormancy, and resurrection of new life. Earth’s tilt has also produced a greater variety of animal and plant life than we would have had if the Earth did not tilt.
The tilt also causes the migration of countless species of wildlife. As the change to winter makes their summer homes inhospitable, the animals must discover and trace a path to more life-sustaining environs. Thus, the monarch butterfly flies all the way from Canada to the forests of Mexico each year, while the Arctic tern flies from pole to pole. The wildebeest and caribou trek thousands of miles over vast plains, while the seal and humpback whale swim a lengthy marathon in the ocean. A host of human beings also join this vast migration, as they seek out warmer climes during the winter months.
In one sense, though, the life forms that migrate do not move at all. As Duncan notes, “it is the so-called ‘migratory’ mammals and birds that travel thousands of miles north and south who maintain their true solar place.” It is those of us who stay put all year long who are the real travelers, as each year the Earth whisks us into a new relationship with the Sun.
For me, Fall is the time of year I am most aware that my place in the sun is changing dramatically. As the days shorten, as the Sun moves farther south on the horizon, as frost appears on the pumpkins, and as the leaves turn vivid colors and begin to fall, I sense I am indeed moving. I feel I am being carried away into winter—often against my will. I am being helplessly swept into a place of cold, darkness, and death. This dramatic shift makes me a little sad and melancholic.
Yet, I love fall. Maybe it’s because I believe that the cold and darkness come bearing blessings too. Every season has the power to brings us gifts—if we but take the time to slow down, look, feel, ponder, and pray… Creative God, thank you for our Moon and our tilting Earth—both the result of trauma endured millions of years ago. Thank you for the amazing variety of animal and plant life on Earth—including human beings, and even me. Loving Creator, I believe you are the author of all seasons. Be with me through the many changing seasons of my life. Give me the eyes to see and embrace the blessings each season desires to bestow upon me. Amen.
PS: I ask your prayers for a virtual retreat I am leading on Oct. 2-3. It is entitled “Holding onto Hope” and is sponsored by Mount Saint Joseph Retreat Center in Maple Mount, KY. On Friday there’s an opening conference at 6:30 pm (Central time). Saturday goes from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm and includes prayer, my conferences, ample breaks, and sharing. Call 270-229-0206 or email [email protected] for details and registration. Or click the link below. Thank you!
Did any of the words or pictures in is this reflection strike you today? How or why?
Have you ever thought of something as “bad” or as an “imperfection” only to discover it resulted in a blessing for you?
What blessings or gifts do you see in each of the seasons of the year and the seasons of your life?
Our song for today is “All of My Days” by the group called Casting Crowns. It reminds us that God’s love is with us all our days and through all the seasons of our lives.
I invite you to respond below to this reflection, pictures, song, or other readers’ comments! One of the best aspects of this blog are all the reader responses! Don’t hesitate to contribute your thoughts…