It is mid-September now; I can see in the fading light the jagged holes in the leaves of the mock-orange hedge outside my study window. The more closely I look, the more I doubt that there is a single whole unblemished leaf left on the bush. I go out again and examine the leaves one by one, first of the mock-orange outside my study, then of the cherry tree in the yard. In the blue light I see scratched and peeled stems, leaves that are half-eaten, rusted, blighted, blistered, mined, snipped, smutted, putted, puffed, sawed, bored, and rucked. Where have I been all summer while the world has been eaten?
Mid-September is upon Tinker Creek. Dillard notices things that she hasn't notice before, like the fact that something has chewed up the leaves of the mock-orange hedge outside her window. That's the way of the world, of course. Eat and be eaten. Blight and be blighted.
Outside my living room window is a beautiful maple tree. It shades the side of the house all summer long. In the fall, when its leaves start turning mustard and tangerine, the tree also gets what I have come to call a case of leprosy. On the skin of the leaves, black and brown spots appear. Dime-sized and nickel-sized. These blemishes mar what would be a Norman Rockwell-esque autumn scene.
The tree isn't dying, as far as I can tell. In the spring, new leaves appear, green and full and healthy-looking. All summer long, those leaves waves and whisper in the warm winds. If you can't tell, it's one of my favorite trees in my yard. Come early October, despite its annual case of small pox, the maple can still be breathtakingly beautiful with its flaming colors.
But, as Dillard says, the world is an imperfect place. Beauty and blight on the same leaf. That's why Jesus tells parables like the prodigal son, who pisses away his inheritance and then goes crawling back for his father's forgiveness. Humans understand (you will excuse my language) how inherently fucked-up we are. Jealous. Greedy. Profligate. Jesus wanted us to know that nothing is unfixable. Mistakes can be made right. Blight can be turned into beauty again come springtime.
I thing God has to be infinitely patient. I mean, humans slaughtered His only son, and He didn't rain down fire and lava on our asses. Nope. Instead, He waited three days, and then He brought His son back. To save us. To make things right. To forgive. To make the sick, yellow maple leaves green again.
Saint Marty thinks that's pretty cool.