“Oh, how I love Autumn!!” I mused as I walked along the familiar trail near our home in late September. What struck me, was that nature all around me seemed to be shouting, “pay attention,” “be aware of the gifts I offer you!” I began to consider the meaning of the Autumn Equinox and how gifts of Autumn might serve my tense body, unsettled mind, and aching soul, in this unusual year of pandemic anxiety, political confusion and racial unrest.
Autumn 2020 began on September 22 with the Autumnal Equinox and will end on December 21 with the Winter Solstice. The Farmer’s Almanac describes the Autumn Equinox in the northern hemisphere as the moment when the earth’s northern and southern hemispheres receive the same amount of sunshine, so that day and night are of nearly equal length! While ushering in a three-month transition between summer and winter, I see Autumn Equinox as invitation to balance energies between body, mind and spirit. Layers of awareness arise in my thoughts infused with gifts that Autumn presents: letting go, harvesting memories, new beginnings, gathering in wisdom, and expressing gratitude.
With the first layer of Autumn awareness my body experiences images through the senses. Green leaves and plants gradually changing to vibrant reds, shimmering golds, warm browns. Trees dropping leaves, exposing intricate designs of branches through which to gaze at stars and harvest moon. Plants release seeds to the ground.
Amid fluffy clouds, I hear flapping wings and “honking” sounds of geese flying south. Busy squirrels scurry through dry leaves holding acorns to store in their nests tucked safely up branches of trees. Leaves and twigs “crackle” when I step on them. I notice the quiet, peacefulness near still ponds hinting of fewer buzzing insects.
Mmm, the taste of ripe, sweet pears and apples, pumpkin and squash, honey, cider, grapes and promise of Halloween candy fill me with excitement for the treats of this season. Smells of dry leaves, mature herbs, smoky bonfires, cool rain on the dry earth, pot roast and pie help me slow down and savor comforting moments.
The cooler air requires me to layer on warmer clothes as the days become shorter and nights lengthen. With my feet connecting to gravel and dirt as I walk, I feel closer to the earth, to nature…and our Creator God. I sense a renewed energy in my body moving forward!
A second layer of Autumn awareness focuses my mind on projects: cleaning closets around the house, preparing the garden for its winter rest; harvesting memories of deceased family and friends, of past experiences; letting go of old baggage to make room for new goals, dreams. I plan adventures for learning, for making new memories, for celebrating birthdays and traditions. I think of my Italian ancestors making life choices through their courage, strength, resilience and love…and passing on their legacies of life-giving values and ethics, which I now strive to pass forward.
The third layer of Autumn awareness suggests how my spirit yearns to gather in wisdom. I reflect on what nourishes and energizes me, what needs to yet be released or healed, how to celebrate life in fullness. On October 4, I celebrate the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi and his love of animals and all the environment. I recall some of his last words to his brothers, “I have done what I have come to do, now you must do what you have been sent to do.” When I ponder what is yet to be done, to be forgiven or reconciled, in my life, in our world, I seek wisdom to understand my small part in the greater scheme of things and how to act on it.
The October 15 feast day of St Teresa of Avila helps me ponder her down-to-earth wisdom of faith and prayer that she passed on to her Carmelite communities, “Learn to see God in the details of your life, for He is everywhere.” Realizing that God is ever-present, my spirit opens to gratitude and love, recognizing and naming truth and goodness in me and from those whose lives have been beacons of hope lighting my path. Considering ancestors and the spiritual wisdom figures from history, I welcome Rainer Maria Rilke’s words of wisdom, “They are in us, those long-departed ones. They are in our inclinations, our moral burdens, our pulsing blood, and in the gestures that arise from the depths of time.”
Autumn gathers us together in Thanksgiving. Joyce Rupp describes this holiday as “…a time to look beneath our external lives for the unwavering love, the ceaseless peace, and the enduring strength that lie in the deep waters of our soul. The more we trust the ‘unknowable depths’ of our existence, the more the power of gratitude becomes a song we daily sing.”
Thank you, neighbor, for allowing me to share my 2020 Autumn reflections with you. These layers of Autumnal gifts help me find balance of Body, Mind and Spirit in turbulent times. I know that at the end of Autumn, after long, dark nights leading to the Winter Solstice, the very next day will dawn a new season in the circle of life, opening to new layers of awareness. I invite you to remember with me the words of the Gospel of John, 1:4-5, “…in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
With hope, dear neighbor, I offer “The Peace of Wild Things,”
“When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with fore-thought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”