October in Combermere

by Fr. Eddie Doherty

Dear God,

It is October and our world has never been more beautiful. There are more shades of red and brown and orange and green and yellow in your woods than anybody can describe or name—or believe.

The glory of heaven has descended on the earth — and now and then a shrieking blue jay pauses in his flight and adds to the wonder of the scene.

I go slowly along roads that run between tall banks of painted trees, down toward a painted valley, then up to a painted hilltop toward a painted sky and the sight of a painted shining dark blue stretch of water.

The air is full of glistening gossamer, living seeds cast adrift by dead milkweeds and thistles.

Here comes a milkweed seed that dances like a snowflake. It looks like a snowflake—a snowflake with long false eye lashes. It kisses the flaming leaves of a maple, and skitters on, and up, and out of sight. And I think of the burning bush that frightened Moses.

This whole Madawaska Valley woodland is a burning bush, Lord; and your voice rings in it, speaking of a ground that is holy.

Some of the leaves have fallen; they crunch underfoot. They say, “Death is natural, death is holy, death is good, death is essential to the continuance of life upon this earth. Life is born of death.”

In a week or two all these lovely leaves will fall and fade, making a quilt for the acorns and the pine cones and the millions of other seeds the year has begotten, a quilt to keep them warm and snug against December’s snows, to keep them safe until next April’s sun and rain, to shelter them until their resurrection.

I love October more than any other month of the year.

Excerpted and adapted from Restoration, November 1966