09/10/2010 02:48 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Passing of Time and the Chapel of the Soul

The rain blew and pounded against the window as the September thunderstorm raced across my view. A thousand snare drums beat a rapid, intense rhythm on the metal roof, inducing a trance that was pure peace, contrasting the thunder that rumbled overhead.

The next morning is was cooler. Not dramatically, but noticeably cooler. Subtle is a better way of describing the first shift of seasons. Summer is nearing its time to let go.

Oh, I'm sure it has not finished with us entirely. More heat, more muggy days and groaning air conditioners await us. But here was a hint, a whisper that change is coming.

It always does. Each green leaf clings comfortably to the branch, skimming the nutrients and cleansing the air we breath, until one morning it just stops and awaits the wind that will nudge it the ground; it will take its turn in sustaining the next generation, and the next.

Those blue birds in my yard, dipping and diving and digging -- could one of them be the hatchling that crept from the box I hung to the tree last winter? They are animated in this brief spell of coolness, more urgent, it seems, than two days past when the heat held everything hostage.

Urgency is necessary; last opportunities are numbered. Prescient winds stir subtly from the north on this summer day. It is just a matter of time.

It is always just a matter of time. What seems like a temporary eternity in life and circumstances teeters before the next shift of wind.

Pressed into the calendar, chiseled into the routine, every event and obligation and plan we make seems at that moment to be the sole reason and purpose, justifying our lives and actions. Take this class, finish that project, start over here, drop off there, make another meeting, and the sleep between is but a means to do it again the next day.

But are we any better defined?

Riding the elevator to take a turn in the hospital room of a loved one who will only ever leave that room in form but not substance, we can't make up our minds about the time. Faster? Do we want it to move forward and conclude and bring peace? Slower? Any presence is a presence, we reason in the grief that paces just outside our thoughts.

Limited to the marvels of electronic communications, a soldier who can tell you the day his tour will end sends another message to a wife, a child, a mother and father. The instant signal glares at the longing for that distant day to arrive. And the nervous prayers, both spoken and avoided, imagine a return that is complete, final, and safe.

I try not to look at my pension numbers now. It depresses me. When I still had a head of dark hair, they said that over time the numbers would grow to the point that would provide for my last years. "Maybe" is the word now. There is no alternative but to move boldly to "maybe."

How did the children grow so old so fast? In their minds they are still immortal, but I see the changes, the subtle differences that will one day alter their hurry. It is unlikely that I'll witness their laments of time, and for fall to look back over the shoulder to long for spring is whimsical -- especially when fall offers so much in its own way.

One place for me seems timeless. It is not in the institutions, ever. They may seem eternal, but they are not. And that includes the one I work for. No, it is hallowed ground that seems timeless, that place where the eternal dwells, the chapel of the soul.

The clouds are stacking up again, the rain resumes, and the wind is blowing. The chop on the lake comes from the north today. Due north. Another season to mark the eternal season of that which is divine in all of us.