As I drove from my home to work, I noticed a kind of heaviness in the trees. It was a crystal-clear morning, beautifully cool with a bright sun. Yet, the leaves on the trees, while full and plush, hung heavy. I do not know if there is anything scientific as to how deciduous leaves look at the onset of the fall season, but they certainly look different to me at this time of year. On other blocks in my neighborhood there is a distinct yellow color to the leaves, and when I walk my dog, Sampson, in the early evening hours, I am beginning to see a gathering of wind-driven leaves on the berm of the road. Fall may not exactly be in the air, but it is certainly nearby, crouched down, and waiting like an omni present inevitability.
When I arrived at the office, the vibration and rattling of the latest downtown demotion once again intruded into my consciousness. Our law office has survived the shake, rattle and roll of the school district demolition next door, the destruction of the former Wilson’s Department Store on the other side, and now the Parking Authority garage across the street. It seems as though the whole town is in the throws of demolition and redevelopment. Down come old, solid-looking structures, and up go modern, prefab buildings. I could not help but observe that Kohl’s is nothing more than premade slabs of concrete with a pretty fascia. The modern Marriot Suites Hotel behind our building is a 4-story frame of wood that looks like a house of cards. I have no doubt that the new Parking Authority garage will be concrete modules dropped into place like the old erector sets that I used to play with as a kid.
“The more things change, the more they stay the same,” wrote Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr. Ecclesiastes, which the Jews call Kohelet, read at this time of the year during Sukkot, noted that the winds turn around the circuit and return to the same place, the rivers run to the sea and the sea is not yet full, and the sun also rises. Hemingway borrowed the latter theme to express his own ambivalent form of depression.
As the season advances in its determined march towards fall and winter and the town changes its complexion, we are all reminded of the certainty of change. An old season will go and a new one will arrive with many of the same challenges, along with new ones. The city will redevelop, conquering some of its old demons and doubtless having to address new ones. For me the seasons represent personal change and growth, while the city landscape represents the material environment in which we live.
In the Jewish ethics, Pirkei Avot, we learn that although we are not required to complete the task, we may not refrain from working towards completion. The change in seasons should be seen not as a time for sadness, but an opportunity to renew our relationship with the changes that we must all encounter sooner or later. Winter, for me, will accompany cold, but it will also bring the cross-country skiing season. Winter will bring warm fireplace scenes, holidays, and a reaching out to friends. The change in the cityscape will coexist with the challenges we must face concerning substandard rental housing, and the growing problem of heroin addiction in our community. These societal problems, like our personal problems, must be addressed as tasks and without discouragement or obsessive negativity. Just as we must work with our own internal gyroscope and our families to get through the winter season, we must act as responsible citizens to address our growing city’s needs and concerns.
Our bodies will age and our minds hopefully will grow more wise, just as our city will look different with the progress of construction. If we look at all of these developments as opportunities, we may just have some success in gathering the sparks of goodness which exist around us in order to create a lamp that will light the world.
Rieders, Travis, Dohrmann, Mowrey, Humphrey & Waters
161 West Third Street
Williamsport, PA 17701
(570) 323-8711 (telephone)
(570) 323-4192 (facsimile)
Cliff Rieders, who practices law in Williamsport, is Past President of the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association and a member of the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority. None of the opinions expressed necessarily represent the views of these organizations.