Walking in the midst on autumn’s days, I see so many pieces of life falling away. The chestnuts jumping to earth and click-click-clicking on the sidewalks like so many mahogany pebbles raining from the sky. The hills of leaves scuttling and diving in the dance of wind and rain, gliding and swirling across the earth’s canvas until they blanket the ground in a veined collage of brilliant curried hues. The bounty of summer’s crops that a few short weeks ago stretched with relentless fortitude to the warm sky have now bent back to the earth, asking for a final harvest before their skins rest against the wet soil and they begin to wrap the cloak of decay around their waning lives.
In summer it’s easy to be full of now. Sun and the promise of more, outdoor venues and hurrying to fit as much as possible into the overflowing hours of sunlight in our days. Now with rain puddled paths and grey expanses of tarped sky there’s a sense of waiting, or getting through to the other side. In a little over a month the light will slowly begin to return, yet in the waiting and hoping and looking forward is the overlooked resonance of this time in all its moist expectation.
It’s such a simple term to describe this time of year. Fall. Nature obeys with gravity’s able assistance as trees and plants of all persuasions succumb to time’s ebbing call. In the Chinese Five Elements philosophy fall is the time of metal, of coming to fruition, harvesting our gifts, transitioning and letting go. It even tells us what to do when daylight savings time comes to an end (“Spring forward, Fall back”).
Perhaps it’s why this season is filled with traditions of crossing over into another existence. It’s the time we return to school, stepping from one grade into another, embracing the new and relinquishing the familiar. Halloween and its tricks and treats attempt to skirt the thinning veil of death that asks us to make the final transition from this life. Thanksgiving culls the abundance of summer’s bounty and pauses to reflect on the many gifts this life has bestowed on us.
I know so many people in the embrace of change right now. New moves, new loves, new losses and new awakenings. It seems my greatest times of change and self-reflection have come at this time of year when the pall of the unknown lifts and a sudden sense of suspension engulfs my existence. It’s like clinging to a trapeze and swinging expectantly into the air only to let go; feeling the rush of the abyss holding you in its adrenaline embrace, not knowing what lies ahead or below. Traits and ways of being that I’ve clung to most of my life have slipped from my shoulders and I find myself in the clothes of skin and flesh that feels oddly new and yet ancient, as if these perceptions and comely awareness have been dug up to feel the air and sun upon them for the first time in centuries.
I adore this time of year and this time in my life. The cacophony of transcendent leaves, the ballast of wind shifting and shaping the waters of the ocean, the exhale of each day’s quotient of light and nighttime’s clamor for divine dominion. Seeing the changes that have manifested over the decades, the months, days and moments of my existence allow me to feel with true gratitude the gift of this harvest, this time. It is only in releasing the old that the new can find its way into our lives and touch the truth soaring past our being in the beautiful abyss of complete and utter now.
What is Divinity
by Wallace Stevens
What is divinity if it can come
Only in silent shadows and in dreams?
Shall she not find in comforts of the sun,
In pungent fruit and bright, green wings, or else
In any balm or beauty of the earth,
Things to be cherished like the thought of heaven?
Divinity must live within herself:
Passions of rain, or moods in falling snow;
Grievings in loneliness, or unsubdued
Elations when the forest blooms; gusty
Emotions on wet roads on autumn nights;
All pleasures and all pains, remembering
The bough of summer and the winter branch,
These are the measures destined for her soul.
“What is Divinity” by Wallace Stevens, from The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens. © Alfred A. Knopf, 1990.