Some are impressed by the exuberance of spring or the radiant joy of summer. A few even have fallen in love with the quiet beauty of winter. While I love all of the seasons, it is autumn that strikes a chord in my soul. It’s a season in which transition is subtle and yet compelling. It’s a season of longing for what has passed, and stoic preparation for what is to come. In short, autumn is a metaphor for the cycle of life that cannot be ignored by those, like me, that have an unhealthy habit of musing on the mysteries of life.
For most of us living in this post-industrial age, we have long since departed from the ways of our agrarian ancestors. It used to be that when the days grew shorter and colder, a certain sense of urgency was foremost in our minds. The crops must be harvested, food stored, and firewood gathered, for the snow and cold would come before long. This sense of urgency can still be seen in nature, as geese begin to leave the lakes for their long journey south. Insects incase themselves in protective shells or disappear deep beneath the ground. Squirrels frantically begin burying every acorn and walnut they can find.
In autumn, with the growing darkness that follows the equinox, nature appears to be dying before our eyes. The beauty of the leaves turning colors and falling slowly to the ground is enchanting, but soon enough the branches are bare, and all of the green of summer has withered to brown. Walking through the forest in late autumn, the air is full of the sweet scent of decay.
They say that in autumn the veil between our world and the world of the spirits is at its thinnest. The ancient Celts knew this. Their holiday of Samhain, which took place around October 31st, was a time to venerate the dead. This holiday was later transformed by the Roman Catholic Church to be All Saint’s or All Hallows Day on November 1st and All Soul’s Day on November 2nd, a time to pray to the saints and martyrs and also for the souls of those who have left this world. Today we’ve done away with such archaic ideas as remembering our departed loved ones at this time—a time when we are most reminded of the passing from this world by nature itself. Instead we have children dress up as ghosts and witches to beg for masses of candy, to add some fun and light to what would otherwise be a time of darkness. Nevertheless, the original sense of this season can still be felt if you only take the time, and instinct sometimes serves better than reason.
This is what I know. The summer seems like it will last forever, and suddenly you are surprised by the sight of your breath in the frosty morning air. The days are still pleasant and the colors are bright, but take heed to the changes happening around you. The sense of urgency is real. Each day grows shorter, and there are very few left before the cold, dark winter. Help each other to make what preparations you can, and don’t forget the joy of running through piles of leaves is not just for children. In nature, winter may be long, but leaves do return to the trees in time. You’ll find that babies are often born in the spring.