Fall Equinox Blessings
Luxuriating in ripeness, rotund like a woman in a Renoir painting, late summer, here in the northern hemisphere, has matured into autumn. The grain at its height falls beneath the pendulum swing of the scythe or the rotating roar of a John Deere harvester. After the cutting, the gleaners come to gather the precious kernels left behind. In his poem “To Autumn,” John Keats apostrophizes the season, addressing it as a sentient being who is responsible for plumping up the fruit and pushing the late fall flowers into bloom to lull the pollinators into thinking “the warm days will never cease.” Ah yes, the joy of Indian summer! Autumn, you see, is a bit lazy and pauses for a rest on the “granary floor” or “like a gleaner” bends with “laden head across a brook.”
The familiar sights and smells of the season are comforting during this time of uncertainty and radical change. The elements themselves turn against us with destructive winds, uncontrollable fires, rapidly rising flood waters, and catastrophic earthquakes while the air we breathe is contaminated by a lethal virus. Over the past year our personal lives have been disrupted in ways we could not have imagined. How do we regain our balance at this season of equinox while Mother Gaia seems intent on exacting retribution for human hubris? Lessons that knock us against the limits of human ingenuity, reveal the dark under belly of our selfishness and greed, and call our very existence on this planet into question terrify us as we scramble to control the damage, predict the future, rebuild infrastructure better, and keep the world manageable.
How are we called to make a personal response? We might consider what remains to be gleaned in the fields of our life’s work. What has been left behind, neglected, or undone? Have we abandoned a dream because its nightmare twin terrifies us? Sometimes we get distracted and forget to attend to what matters most. In a recent interview in the Atlantic on his book Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals, Oliver Burkeman notes, “The reason we seek distraction, … [when we are] working on stuff that we care about,” is because our personal investment in the work brings “us into contact with all the ways in which we are limited, [in which] our talents might not be up to what we are trying to do, and [the realization that] we can’t control how things will unfold.” However, we know as wise women that forging ahead into the unknown in the face of our fears helps us remain true to the cutting edge of growth within us and keeps us vital.
At this time of year, we are powerfully reminded of the intimate connection between life and death. In the Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone, the grain goddess Demeter’s joyous maiden daughter Kore is seized by Hades, the God of the Underworld. During her sojourn with him, Kore, becomes Persephone, the Queen of the Dead, and eats three pomegranate seeds which ensures that while she can return to earth each spring, she must return to the underworld every year when the grain falls. Let us mortals not be satisfied with a mere three seeds, for who knows how much time is left to us. Let us break open the fruit and redden our lips and tongue with feasting on pomegranates. Let us not merely fill up the days of our lives but enlarge their scope by diving deep into the place of our greatest longing which is also the place of our greatest fear that we might gain the greatest good from living.
Can we hold the tension between our uniqueness and our connection with all of creation? Trappist monk, Thomas Merton, in Zen and the Birds of Appetite describes the Buddhist concept of Nirvana as “the wisdom of perfect love grounded in itself and shining through everything meeting with no opposition” (73). While ultimate wisdom is attainable by the saints among us, we all can seek to find ways to nurture and care for ourselves so that we can fulfill our cherished dreams and be ready to lend a skillful hand or sympathetic ear to those in need cradling both them and ourselves in love.
Because at our backs we “always hear/Time’s winged chariot hurrying near” (Andrew Marvel), we must each consider, where best to devote our attention. When Dorothy, Karen, and I began writing this collection of seasonal essays, it was Dorothy’s vision to collect them into a book. Perhaps I shall. It is one of the projects whose outline is etched on my heart. To turn inspiration into manifestation, I must pause in my effort to mark our passage through the crone years season by season and re-focus my energies. It is with regret that I am taking a hiatus from sending out the WOW e-letter. What a great pleasure it has been to turn the wheel of the year with you, my beloved Cronies.
Go in peace,
Risk to Gain
Challenge yourself to dedicate your time and effort to a project about which you care deeply, and which stretches you into new forms of expression or fulfills a cherished dream.