The equinox is in a week, one of the two dates when the sun hovers above the equator and day and night are equal. In the solar calendar it is also the beginning of autumn. Here in Seattle we are starting to get hints of autumn's arrival — cooler days that are getting noticeably shorter from their wide expanse of summer, plants and leaves just beginning their process of decay and letting go in preparation for winter. If I walk slowly and look closely I see the signs all around me.
Autumn is a season of change, reminding us that our lives are constantly in flux. Of course change is always with us, but autumn and spring bring us to a deeper awareness of this constant movement toward both death and life, that we live in a cycle of dying and rising, again and again. We may think we have "arrived" in our lives, whatever that may mean, only to have things turned on their head by illness, death, unexpected opportunity, or longings that suddenly rear their head and disrupt our dreams or waking moments until we pay attention.
In the Benedictine tradition, one of the vows monks take is conversion. Essentially what this vow means is a commitment to being open to a process of continual conversion throughout your life. It means believing that God is far bigger than anything you can ever imagine, and so there will always be more to discover of the sacred. It means committing to a lifetime of change and new beginnings.
In many ways, autumn is a time of new beginnings. School begins, and while we may no longer be students, we might be teachers or parents. Our Jewish sisters and brothers have been celebrating their new liturgical year, a time of introspection and reflection. It is also Ramadan for our Muslim friends, a time of fasting and prayer. With all of these important religious observances coinciding, it feels like an important spiritual time, like perhaps there is an opportunity for any of us who choose to pay attention.
Maybe this is the season you choose to make more space to listen to the longings of your soul or experiment with writing down your dreams and seeing what happens when you begin to take them seriously. Or maybe its just a time to commit to being really good to yourself, a time of self-care and nurture you perhaps haven't had in a while. (You might want to pop over to Juniper's blog after reading this and trying out her yummy-sounding lentil soup recipe.) Or maybe you want to reflect more deeply on what autumn is inviting you to let go of — what things or relationships are draining for you? What belief systems no longer serve you? Which images of God have become too small?
How are you preparing for the season of autumn?
-Christine Valters Paintner @ Abbey of the Arts
(photo from Columbia River Gorge last October)
Other Autumn Celebrations and Fall Transitions:
Claire at Anna's World writes:
i’m certainly preparing for autumn and winter and deep soul-work as the days get shorter…
right now i’m enjoying my daily scooter-walks – the landscape honestly changes every day!! i’m reading LOTS rumi, christina baldwin, caroline myss (i’m listening on audio her Entering the Castle)… trying to process the changes caused by my stroke, and accessing the deep, deep places of my soul….
eileen (the dream) at You May Say I'm a Dreamer writes:
FALL – my fave time of year. I have been mulching like mad and the gardens look magnificent. A few trees are just starting to turn here – and last night it dropped into the 40’s. I slept with the window open. The ospreys are preparing to abandon their nests and leave the Chesapeake Bay area. The geese fly low, honking, as they make their way down the creek. For me, it is a time when life seems to revv up. More commitments and running around. Travel. Yet, with all that goes on, I make time to just sit outside and appreciate the changes all around me, and be grateful to be part of it. My God is large and in charge … and with me every step of the way. When doing the most ordinary of tasks – like mulching, I go for conscious contact. And it become like a chant, a meditation. There is divinity in small moments.
Bette at B'Oki Journal writes:
i have trouble letting go of summer and its warmth. as much as i love the crunch of leaves beneath my feet, the scent of autumn firepits, and the taste of mulled cider, i’d rather wear flip flops and shorts. i’ve already put my heating blanket on my side of the bed and today is the first day i’ve worn jeans since spring. sorry folks, but i very much dislike cold feet, hands, and nose! yes, yes. . . i know, be open to change. i just wish it didn’t include freezing your tushie for it i ate watermelon yesterday, hoping summer might linger abit. Love, Bette in northern KY, who should probably convince family to move to Arizona. “wool sock.s . . i’m coming for you!”
lucy at Diamonds in the Sky with Lucy writes:
i love the concept of conversion…and this line really popped out, too..”Which images of God have become too small?”
my post today is about the stillness i am feeling as i enter into fall. it feels very important to hold onto for me, especially as i can easily get caught up in the hurriedness of new beginnings like school, work, etc.
i, like bette, hate letting go of summer and the warmth it provides. i made my first hot soup of the season last night, however, and there was something very cozy about that kind of warmth and sharing a meal with my family.
open to change??? do i have a choice?
Death of Summer
summer’s last breaths escape as the days get shorter
bronzed shoulders grow cold with only a faint memory of fiery kisses
sun-drenched days dripping with freedom and laziness evanesce
she no longer flaunts her beauty
the leaves and flowers know that they too will soon vanish like summer
we all attend the funeral but in our denial we name it a picnic
nobody notices the casket in the corner
her demise is imminent yet we celebrate
where are the mourners?
the grief-stricken leaves fall from the trees, forlorn as summer slides away
-by Shaula Overholt at coloring
Timothy Moody at The Longer Look writes:
Autumn always brings to mind for me Robert Frost's great poem:
Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leafs a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
I'm always hearing autumn asking me to change colors, to do more releasing, to fly
out into the mystery, to absorb, to transform if only for a season.
Sally at Eternal Echoes writes:
autumn is an exciting season for me, there is a crispness in the air- a time of
great change on the horizon, the earth is preparing to rest… fruits are
collected and stored….but the real promise lies in what comes after the rest-
for life will and does go on!
From Leah at This Far by Faith:
Dreams: In his song "Rollin' Home," Eric Andersen insists "It's not the time but just the dreams that die." I thought maybe my dreams had died, but probably not–the time's simply been very long and in some ways I've been exceedingly patient, but in other ways I've let life happen too often, mainly by making excessive excuses for people's behaviors. So despite yet another unfun summer, for the new seasons I'm seizing my dreams and expecting to fly.
Self-care and nurture: I almost never get physically tired, but need to be more aware of when my brain gets tired. Over the past years I've decided if I haven't been able to find another community or group of friends who know Where I Live and Who I Am, at least I need to produce something to show for my hours, days, weeks and…seasons. Despite really wanting and needing to lose some ellbees, I've tried to not skip meals except when I'm intentionally fasting. Sleep? Don't even think about that word. This was too short, but explains the general idea.
Letting go–relationships, beliief systems, things: Some of the RevGals have blogged about letting go of the toxic side of their relationship with themselves, and I'm continuing with that daily struggle. Of course behaviors and attitude that tell us we're unworthy and less-good belong in a horrifically flawed belief system, so in the process of letting go, again I'm picking up the Way of Jesus Christ that commands me love God, neighor and self.
Too-small images of God: some still persist, but experiencing Mercy and Grace helps obliterate and unimagine the most serious ones.
Physical preparation for the new season: winters here in Paradise usually are benign, but still I take out sweaters I haven't been wearing and put away the lighter weight ones along with my shirts, skirts, shorts and tops that distinctively shout summer. I have quite a few quilts and comforters, some of which look and feel better for the less sunny times of the year, so they get swapped out, too.
Recomended resources: frequent prayer; a constant attitude of prayer; good nutrition; supportive friends and community. Reading books and blogs…
Sue at Discombobula writes us with a Southernn hemisphere perspective:
I'm preparing for Spring here in Australia! And oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! Can I just jump
up and down and fling myself around and tell you how excited I am about that?
Well, I would if I had the energy. I have come off the Winter from hell. Have been
sick for two months straight with a bacterial infection that's almost seen me expel
my lungs out through my mouth. I suffer from seasonal affective disorder due to the
loss of light. So I've been depressed on top of it.
I'm preparing for Spring by feeling myself unfurl. I don't need to prepare or do
anything – just lovin' the extra light, lovin' the fact that I am finally getting
better and I have extra energy to get back into doing some writing again! Lovely!!
(But yes, autumn is a beautiful time of year. I imagine after another crazy
Australian summer I will be loving it too … although the branches of Winter cast a
bit too long a shadow, for mine. *Note to self: go to Darwin for winter next year)
Kievas Fargo writes:
I enjoy fall as much as spring (actually, winter's not that bad either). I don't
know if I do anything different to prepare, except trying to catch up with yardwork