Leaves whirl like dervishes in the insistent wind. The smoke of burning forests bites my eyes. Sunlight shines through cloudless skies onto parched ground. The mountains moan for rain; stubbled valleys echo their wordless, desperate prayer.

Fall’s changes anticipate bleak and beautiful winter, when daylight lessens and hope learns to thrive in darkness. I breathe the air of loveliness, loss, and longing.

In New York City and Washington, D.C., shifting power-plates grind against each other. The culture quakes. Chasms open. Some certainties topple. The terrain of expectation rises and falls. I’m unsteady on my feet, while others stride triumphantly. Depending on who you are, it’s morning or mourning in America.

In our political upheaval, I hear a call to the local and to the daily. What can I do here and now, among the people I know or could know or could know better?

We have responsibilities beyond the local, of course, but most of our actual opportunities are where we live and work, among the people who drive the same roads we drive, shop in the same stores, and have the same doctors. We have a chance to make a difference with people whose partners are our acquaintances, whose children we know, and whose mother taught us when we were kids.

With friends who are working for causes that matter to them and to me, what kind of encouragement can I offer?

With friends who see the world differently than I do, and with people who aren’t yet friends and whose experience of life isn’t much like mine, how can I listen and speak in ways that open the possibility for mutual suspicion to become mutual understanding?

How can I provide support for groups and agencies who help us to serve people on the margins and the underside?

How can I—white, straight, middle-class, and well-connected—use my voice to speak for those who justifiably worry that speaking will expose them as targets for those who would harm them?

How can I not let the trivial things crowd out the truly important ones? And how can I do that today?

These questions are personal, not just political. The smoky horizon of these fall days resembles the view from my soul. My bones burn. The tender-fierce Spirit wants to stir up some dervish-like dancing amid the decaying and dying.

In The Roadless Yak, environmentalist Rick Bass said: “When I am alone in the woods, and the struggle seems insignificant or futile, or when I am in a public meeting and am being kicked all over the place, I tell myself that little things matter — and I believe that they do.” 

They do. Little, local, and daily things are the near edge of our calling.