I always forget how much I love autumn until it is in full swing. In part this is my resistance to the loss of the long, lingering, balmy days of summer. I hate the sense of finality that comes with finally putting away the shorts and T-shirts. In fact every year I shift into avoidance and head south to California where the onset of fall is accompanied by delightful balmy summer days and temperatures that can exceed the eighties.
However by mid October I return to face the inevitable drama of fall in the northwest. It is the time when powerful storms, spawned in the tempestuous Gulf of Alaska, frequently thousands of miles in length drive high winds and deluges of rain onto the coast. It seems a relentless attack on the defenseless deciduous trees whose leaves cling on desperately until they finally succumb in a torrent of colour coating the sidewalks in their fancy dress.
It is at this point that something magical happens. I find my self embracing the shift of seasons. My evening sunset stroll along the beach is replaced by an afternoon wander along treed boulevards admiring the rich shades of crimson, umber, orange and gold that reflect luminously in the afternoon sun, lighting up like miniature lanterns. The sidewalk assumes a multi-coloured mosaic of the fallen while the trees looking ever more destitute cling determinedly to their remaining offspring.
Fall has a somewhat jaded appearance, disorderly, unkempt and disheveled compared to the joyous profusion of summer. The gardens assume a tired, exhausted appearance and people talk about “putting them to bed”. It seems so appropriate. The flowering plants lose their radiance and slip into the ordinary. Occasionally a rebel flashes one last bloom before succumbing to its inevitable fate.
The sun continues its inevitable drift south with shortening days, and a sense of gloom can pervade in advance of the next major storm front. Yet forcing oneself to experience the drama of the storm’s ferocity more than compensates for its dampening force. Fall needs to be lived fully.
Fall comes also as a wonderful reminder to consider the changing season in my own Soul journey. What needs to be released? What powerful event transpiring in my life has come to help me let go of “the last leaf”? How do I shift my perspective to see the longer, darker days as a gift? Has disorder crept in to my garden? What needs to be “put to bed”? Is there an old behaviour that no longer blooms for me?
Fall is a wonderful time for reflection and engaging our inner landscape. I believe a valuable Fall practice is to reflect on the journey and make a list of the things for which I am grateful. “There are so many gifts my dear still unopened from your Birthday*” – these lines from Rumi offer a timely reflection.
I learned a practice for Fall at a workshop I attended this summer titled “Seasons of the Soul”. Take four small pieces of paper and write on them the words: compost, fulfillment, completion and harvest. Fold them so you cannot see the inscriptions then arrange them to form a cross or the four directions: top, bottom, left, right. Then close your eyes and briefly meditate on receiving a gift of guidance.
Open the folded scraps of paper to reveal which word occupies which direction. Each position has its own interpretation:
Left: Something to be receptive to.
Right: Something to actively engage.
Top: That which is on the horizon
Bottom: Something requiring healing.
Then reflect on the meaning of each word in its position. Perhaps your healing may come from fulfillment or completing some project. Sometimes we need to be receptive to composting something that was once vital but now we need to benefit from the nourishment it leaves us. We could need to be open to complete of something that is on the horizon. If harvest appears in the healing position then perhaps something on our journey needs to be more fully recognized and appreciated. I find myself back thinking about Rumi’s wonderful poem.
* So Many Gifts
There are so many gifts
Still unopened from your birthday,
there are so many handcrafted presents
that have been sent to you by God.
The Beloved does not mind repeating,
“Everything I have is also yours.”
Please forgive Hafiz and the Friend
if we break into a sweet laughter
when your heart complains of being thirsty
when ages ago every cell in your soul
capsized forever into this infinite golden sea.
Indeed, a lover’s pain is like holding one’s breath
too long in the middle of a vital performance,
when God just rolled over and gave you
such a big good-morning kiss!
There are so many gifts, my dear,
still unopened from your birthday.