October has long been my favorite month. I love the cool mornings and generally warmer afternoons. I love the colors – which, admittedly are a bit slow this year. I love the smells of Fall. I love the finishing up of the harvest. Granted – raking leaves is not my favorite chore but every silver lining exists on a cloud, I guess. And October is generally the month in which the first frost occurs. I never find myself cheering for the first frost on its own account exactly. I like Fall a lot better than Winter and I know how the beginning of frosts signals the shift from the one to the other. But the first frost portends a few other things as well. These days it signals the end of the mowing season. Again – if only it didn’t also signal the beginning of the raking season! But I have a grandson mowing my lawn for the first time in my life this year so my celebration at parking the mower for the last time in a calendar year is somewhat reduced. As a kid I knew the first frost meant we were soon going to have persimmon pudding. This was (and remains) a matter of some excitement. I love persimmon pudding. Some years before we left the parsonage and purchased our own home, I had planted several persimmon trees. When I planted them, they were twigs with a few root hairs on one end and a few leaf buds on the other. By the time we left they were past being saplings and turning into nice young trees. I saw from the road the other day that they are actually bearing fruit this year. I wonder if the new owner would accept a claim on the first fruits – after all – I planted the trees! Probably not. But whoever harvests and eats those persimmons, they won’t be fit to eat (my wife says persimmon pudding is never fit to eat – to each their own) until after the first frost. That’s just the way of persimmons. At the home we purchased I really don’t have room to start another persimmon grove. I did, however, build a couple of raised beds and planted, among other things, an experimental crop of salsify (oyster plant). I have never grown or eaten salsify before and am looking forward to a trial dish at a coming Sunday family dinner – after the first frost. Salsify is another plant that requires a frost to develop its distinctive flavor. I’ll let you know how all that goes – after the first frost. The first frost is the seasonal end of some things – ruining whatever tomatoes, peppers, etc. may still be out there. But it is the completion/perfection of other things like persimmons and salsify. It is no surprise that the changing of the seasons should have become a metaphor for life and death. I will add only this: death ruins the hopes of the world but completes/perfects the hopes of the saints. I find that God is good to me here and now. But I know the best things can’t come until after the frost.
Pastor and Author Terry Bailey, Senior Minister of Indian Run Christian Church