Autumn took me by surprise this year.
Overnight, warm sun seemed to turn to cold rain. I don’t think this was just my lack of attentiveness. The seasons overlap and creep upon us and tease us as they ebb and flow before disappearing without warning. This Autumn was a poignant one for me as my oldest child started school. It hit me harder than I expected. The reality of the passing of time and of ageing; the grief at losing concentrated time with one of my soulmates; the submission to an institution and a system that I knew so little about; the change of rhythm to our days, weeks, and terms; the extra time and space it gave me to reflect back on a year of (so far) extraordinary gift and challenge – and the inner work this involved.
Autumn is a moment in which we are caught up in, taken aback by, and plunged into change, perhaps without feeling ready for it. Death and decay creep in: plants die and leaves fall.
It’s hard to think of Spring at this time of year. But I am always surprised at how quickly the decay turns again to life. What strength must lie in the earth, that it can so quickly bring to birth once more green signs of life. Winter is never death, and always gestation.
What follows is a meditation for all who have found themselves hitting October with bewilderment: where has this year gone?
It is for all who fear change, decay and death.
It is, perhaps, the song of the sunflowers.
What makes you strong doesn’t come from outside. What makes you strong is what you carry within. In plants, strength and vitality lie dormant in winter, ready to burst through with new shoots in Spring. Autumn is a time to bed down, to reabsorb life and take it back to the innermost places, to quieten and to listen and to wait. This jars, amidst the otherwise busy-ness of this time of year.
This Autumn, may we find time to keep slow pace with the trees, and like them, store up vitality.
Our moment of parting
How was I to know that sunset smile
Would be the last you would show me
Before the cold months of your absence?
Your whispered goodbye
Above the cruel, harsh winds
So quick to hurry in change
I still look
For your August warmth
But you glare at me
Me, surrounded by the sodden brown carpet
That once was glorious canopy,
And you are
And give nothing.
And so it is time for
I turn in on myself
Returning withered to my roots.
And here is all I need.
Dying and gestating within me
The remnant of the goodness we had
And the promise of a Spring yet to be:
Painful memories and hopeful promises
Stored up for the life that will grow
As I wait; patiently, slowly, still.