Welcome autumn! We gather in a harvest of pain; we gather in a harvest of hope; we bow to the winds of change.
On the last Saturday of summer, two other crones and I gathered outdoors, masked, and socially distanced, for a fall equinox celebration in one woman’s community garden plot. Surrounded by pollinators nosing into fragrant, late blooming basil, pink obedience, and sweet autumn clematis, we cast a circle of sacred space amid the hum and chirp of insect life. When we sought guidance from a deck of Druid animal cards, I drew otter. The card encouraged me to take time to play, which for me, even at 71, involves make-believe.
During our solitary time of meandering along woodland paths, I pretended to be a wizard. Brandishing a two-foot long cherry branch, I raised power and directed it out into the woods. I did a few spins with Percy, my white mini-poodle, who leapt about with gusto chasing my wand. Once again with an upward flourish, I directed its tip out into the murky pines. Suddenly, several blue jays began sounding a harsh, insistent alarm. Once more into the breach, I hurdled my bolt of wizardry and it morphed into a cacophonous swell of calling birds. “Stop here, we’ve arrived,” one wave of feathered troops signaled to those behind as a murmuration of starlings came to roost. We humans regathered and peered up into the susurrating forest canopy for glimpses of small, black, fluttering bodies. We could not see the broad waves of birds still in sinuous flight only hear the incoming murmuring whirr of their tremendous energy settling into the tree tops.
In this time of fear and upheaval, and of mourning for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, how do we as women, like “a river of birds in migration” band together to find a still point of balance within ourselves to maintain hope and act skillfully in the world? How can we be wise?
Wisdom is a big word perhaps indicative of a direction for growth rather than a destination. Wisdom, whose source lies beyond our grasping, competing, judging egos, is deeply grounded in humility. Richard Rohr in his book Falling Upward defines wisdom as non-dualistic thinking and an attitude of contemplation which allows us to observe the world without judging or reacting but with a sense of inner calm. Pausing and gathering our wits allows for more skillful action when confronting challenges.
Whipped into a frenzy of political polarization, the United States is threatened on multiple fronts by the pandemic, climate change fueled wild fires and hurricanes, inept leaders, and social inequities that foment protests. Will our democracy hold? Are humans capable of finding solutions? In this time of uncertainty, we are all called upon to grow. We have been issued an invitation by the universe to become our largest and best selves.
As we grow older, one way to move toward wisdom is to branch out into new ways of seeing and interacting with the world. Rohr observes that often in the second half of life, “Doers become thinkers, feelers become doers, thinkers become feelers, extroverts become introverts, visionaries become practical, and the practical ones long for vision. We all go toward the very places we avoided for the last forty years” (149). This balancing allows us to mature into the fullness of ourselves.
I’ve noticed that when I choose extroversion and risk interacting with more people (even through Zoom and walking my dog), I learn more about myself and others. What I learn is not always pretty, which fuels my developing appreciation for satire in literature which is a far cry from my usual gravitation toward the Romantics. How might you explore new dimensions of yourself this autumn?
Engaging in spiritual practices such as prayer, meditation, chanting, drumming, or trance work also helps us grow. Such activities when practiced regularly have the power to shift our awareness beyond our preoccupation with our personal concerns and to kindle interaction with the sacred dimension of existence. As we move toward wisdom, we become less concerned about ourselves and more aware of how cosmic energy can flow through us and be used for purposes we ourselves may not fully comprehend.
Large western pine trees such as those fueling the fires raging in California and Oregon, have a method for species survival. When the tips of their tightly sealed pine cones are exposed to heat, they burst open to release their seeds. Buried in the ash of their parent tree, these seeds sprout, push into the sunlight, and re-green the forest. We cannot help but feel the heat of the fires of disease, political friction, and climate change licking around and consuming our former expectations of normalcy. How might our hearts burst open? What seeds might we plant to renew the earth to keep life sustainable for future generations?
In this time of abundance as the harvest moon ripens, I invite you to find comfort in the act of giving thanks for the blessings in your life. If someone you love deeply has recently died, give thanks for the joy of having loved and been loved. If you have a safe place to lay your head at night and enough food to eat, give thanks, and pray for those less fortunate. List nine things for which you are grateful, and which make you feel protected even in tumultuous times.