Op-Ed

Fall brings castor oil and good things, too

Bob Penton is one of five reader columnist for The News Tribune.
Bob Penton is one of five reader columnist for The News Tribune. Tacoma

It was only a few weeks ago that I was relaxing in my backyard, sun on my face, surrounded by nature’s most beautiful charm.

Perennials of all types dotted my field of vision, while the myriad of trees lined against the fence served both as a canvas for my daydreams and an obstruction from my neighbor’s house.

Summer brings the sounds of children playing, adults chatting, dogs barking, lawnmowers roaring and the unyielding smell of barbecue, a feast I will miss. The backyard is my oasis, a place to escape and unwind from copious demands of the day.

But like most things in life, nothing stays put forever. Fall steps in for summer and the words of my grandmother ring clear: “Change is in the air.”

At 8 years old, I didn’t quite understand what she meant. Fall was the time my grandmother placed a bottle of castor oil on the stove, and that’s when I knew change was nearing.

Castor oil was Grandma’s traditional go-to for conditions such as colds, flu, skincare and haircare.

All seven siblings were lined up and forced to take a hearty tablespoon of that horrible tasting oil. Grandma called it winterization, using preventive measures before the onslaught of fall.

This tradition was faithfully passed down to me, and I administered the foul liquid to my seven children.

Although my childhood memories of fall include castor oil, I have long since realized that fall is much more than dread and trepidation.

King Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes wrote: ”To everything there is a season, a time to every purpose under the heaven.”

Each season has symbolic meaning; spring represents birth, summer is synonymous with youth, autumn signals adulthood and winter symbolizes old age, death, and ultimately a new life beyond our understanding.

But my favorite season will always be fall, the season of change. It reminds us that our bodies, minds and surroundings are always developing. It forces us to focus on the impermanence of life, emphasizing how vital it is to embrace the present.

By doing so, we savor what’s in front of us before it is gone. It invites us on an inward journey. You can’t be allured by outward distractions. If you fall prey to a daily schedule that doesn’t allow time to reflect, you’ll miss the best fall has to offer.

Maybe that’s why the mystery of fall faithfully awakens me between 4 and 5 a.m. Like a child on Christmas morning, I leap from the comfort of bed and hasten to my sacred space.

There I tap into my dayspring, my soul. I visit places that I’ve never seen. I learn more about the person (me) that I thought I knew so well. It’s like meeting myself for the first time. It’s where I can still hear the wisdom and power of Grandma’s voice: ”Change is in the air.”

When I first welcomed fall as a close friend, I didn’t fear change but embraced it. And that’s when I met my true self, and saw what God had given me and every human being, an uninhibited reservoir of love and wisdom. It was at that moment I discovered the gift of writing.

Fall is a season for transition, organized chaos and change. During these extraordinary stages, beauty is often disguised underneath messy leaves, bare branches, dark skies.

Autumn is here in all its glory. Let it nudge all of us to seek an inner beauty waiting to emerge. It’s my hope everyone will embrace it as a close, loving friend who longs to assist us in reaching our greatest capacity.

Change is gonna come. We might as well open wide and say “aaaahh.”

Bob Penton of South Hill has served as both pastor and community organizer in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood for 52 years. He is one of five reader columnists who write for this page. Reach him at Robert.Penton68@gmail.com

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