As Autumn sweeps in and turns the trees into flaming colors, a number of things come to mind. Food, for example: cider and pumpkin pie and gingerbread and hot cocoa and heaps of other yumminess. :) But did you ever stop to think about the fact that the trees are really dying? It's not a morbid thought, it's simply the truth. Great beauty, as we see at this time of year, can arise from death. Yes, death can bring sadness, but it also brings transformation, and transformation brings hope.
Autumn also signals the arrival of harvest. While harvest is not so significant to many of us in this century, we can still enjoy it by doing things like picking apples. (Not far from Patrick Henry, there's an apple orchard whose apples are fantastically good.) But harvest also has a spiritual component. I'm reminded of the lines from Aaron Keyes' popular hymn My Soul Finds Rest, which is based on Psalm 62: "Though riches come and riches go/Don't set your heart upon them/The fields of hope in which I sow/Are harvested in heaven." This theme, that of sowing on earth and reaping in heaven, can be traced through much of the New Testament, particularly the epistles of Paul. Consider these verses from 1 Corinthians 15: "So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body."
Thence (at least in part) come the themes for this year's contest. The second division theme, finding beauty in brokenness; or, life through death, stems both from Scripture and from the themes of T.S. Eliot's poem The Wasteland, the major component of which is imagery of the Resurrection and of death leading to new life. Though a somewhat disturbing image, the lines at the end of the first section point directly to this theme: "That corpse you planted last year in your garden/Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year?/Or has the sudden frost disturbed its bed?" His use of the corpse metaphor continues throughout the poem. The first division theme, reaping the reward; or, the harvest, relate both to the current season and to Scripture. For inspiration on either of these themes, you might get a good concordance of the Bible and research reward, death, harvest, etc. The Bible, as the greatest book of all time, can be the source of much inspiration.
So happy writing, fellow ink-spillers! Look for more to come here as the contest progresses. (And if you happen to read this before the announcement is posted on the PHC website, be assured: the official guidelines will posted there.)