Autumnal Rites

We got the predicted rain last night.  Sometime after midnight, in the darkest hours of the night, the rain began to pour.  It was hard not to notice.  Even the cat was intrigued, opening the curtains to look out despite the fact that it was before dawn.

Dark as it was then, it is now as bright.  The sun came out after noon and the sky cleared to a pale, well-washed blue.  A light breeze ruffles the ever more golden leaves.  Autumn is here.

And why wouldn’t it be?  In the last five days, we’ve had the harvest moon, the Autumnal Equinox, Mabon, and the first day of fall.  There’s nothing left now but the harvest feast, which we will celebrate on Saturday in accordance with our own traditions.

For city people, harvest is an idea, but in the country, people still actually do harvest.  It’s real and necessary.  Many people who aren’t even farmers do it — put things up, use them up, or put them by.  Outside, the animals and insects harvest — the squirrels unleashing random bomblets of nuts out of the walnut tree, the bees and butterflies grazing the last of the summer flowers.

Harvest comes early in the fall, and it’s easy to feel celebratory as the season begins.  But Autumn as a whole is another matter, stretching on as it does into late December. For many in the European tradition, Autumn is regarded as a melancholy time, a time of death and mourning, as well as rejuvenating rest.  It isn’t too surprising that people of the northern hemisphere would think that, since our cold season is long. For us, the pretty colors are the carrot to get us to go along with what comes next — the bare trees and grey skies.

Looking for an alternate view, I stumbled on the poets of China.  Chinese poetry about autumn is refreshing because there’s so much more emphasis on the beauty of the season and less on its implications. Poets gaze and dream and appreciate the mellow afternoons, the sharp blue skies, and even the autumn rains.  They get drunk under the harvest moon.  Sometimes they write poetry.

Outside my room, across a road, and down a steep bank is a river.  Even if I hadn’t been aware of last night’s rain, I would have known it from the rush of water racing past me on its way to the sea.

Autumn’s element is water. Its secret power is change. Our choice is whether or not to jump in and enjoy the ride.




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