O World, I cannot hold thee close enough!
Thy winds, thy wide grey skies!
Thy mists, that roll and rise!
Thy woods, this autumn day, that ache and sag
And all but cry with colour! That gaunt crag
To crush! To lift the lean of that black bluff!
World, World, I cannot get thee close enough!
Long have I known a glory in it all,
But never knew I this;
Here such a passion is
As stretcheth me apart,—Lord, I do fear
Thou’st made the world too beautiful this year;
My soul is all but out of me,—let fall
No burning leaf; prithee, let no bird call.
-Edna St. Vincent Millay
I adore the season of autumn. With its cooler days inviting sweaters and blankets and fires in the fireplace, with its abundance of hearty squashes just asking to be pureed into substantial soups, and most of all its breathtaking display of color, exploding forth into the world in scarlet, amber, crimson, orange, announcing the slow fall towards the barrenness of winter.
Seasons have so much to teach us about ourselves. I find being in touch with nature and her seasons can be a profound spiritual practice. For me it is an essential practice to nurture creativity. I have written before about walking as a prayer for me, it is a time when I can be absolutely present to the world around me, God's too-beautiful-world as Millay writes in her wonderful poem. I often feel, as Millay does, that I simply cannot hold the world close enough as it all but cries with color. I am stretched apart by beauty, pulled toward the horizon of the Great Mystery that pulses in this season of change, that sings of the beauty found in death.
Autumn took on another layer of significance when my mother died on October 19 three years ago, and those fall walks sustained me through my grief. I was able to be deeply present to my own body and the world's body and in the place where that awareness meets is a mysterious and wondrous energy. It speaks to me of the poignancy and sweetness of our losses, the ways in which we are reminded again and again how precious absolutely everything is. This fall I am present to another layer of grief at the loss of Duke a month ago.
Tonight also begins Rosh Hashanah and the Days of Awe in the Jewish tradition. I am blessed with good friends who are Jewish, one of whom is a rabbi and she has been preparing to lead her congregation through these days for the last several weeks. It is the beginning of the new year, although not the kind of new year's our culture celebrates, but a new year's of introspection and reflection. It seems so appropriate that these two feasts of the Equinox and Rosh Hashanah would fall together. A time to reflect more deeply on our the changes we want to embody.
Autumn announces that the world is always changing, always in flux. We tend to think of stasis as the norm, when in reality, if we are paying attention, our whole beings are in constant process. Our bodies and our souls. Change can feel threatening until we realize that tending to this constant unfolding process speaks to us of a God who is dynamic and creating newness at every moment, holding out possibility at every turn. Trish at Story Midwife has a wonderful post today inviting us to dance into the world singing our changes. What a wonderful image.
So blessings of the season be upon you wonderful readers. May you sing your changes, may you be stretched apart by the beauty of the world, may you know the sweetness of life in the midst of sorrow.
-Christine Valters Paintner