I look to autumn as the season which shakes us from our lethargy; that is, from the long hot summer with its casual day-to-day-ness. Long ago autumn marked the return to school and another birthday for me, when getting the year old older was so longly felt throughout the summer. Autumn is nature’s final push which is, in effect, the seasonal offering of the last fruits of a season of lushness leading ultimately to end of growth and productivity and finally, death. The wonder implicit in this season is often obscured by its presentation of dazzling color: leaves, fields, harvests, skies, and even the night with the ever-changing showcase of constellations and stars. Bent on completion and fruition nature presses toward some unknown, unseen center which can only be revealed in the absence of growth . . . winter.
The wisdom of the Hebrew tradition, using the Lunar calendar, is that it begins the year on the darkest night with the New Moon, nearest the commencement of our autumnal equinox which marks earth’s transit around the sun, moving toward the shortest day of the year. Jewish wisdom says the year begins with the endings and fruition marked by the autumn season culminating with Thanksgiving or Harvest Home; distinct from other traditions beginning at the end of earth’s circumnavigation. It is human to want to begin again, to make a new start when we need to?
There are so many mixed feelings, in midst of the Jewish High Holy Days of year 5781: a new year with new possibilities, an old year with bad to horrific consequences in our lives, the beginning of autumn with the Equinox (September 22), the New Moon rising, a contentious General Election in weeks, weird vibes around voting, COVD-19; and now, the passing of a giant, U S Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and the subsequent hearing on her successor. On a personal note: my daughter, son in law and grand daughter soon becoming a family of four in days with the birth of another grand, have moved in with me. Is there more? Oh yes, I just turned 72 and I still think I am old, a vestige of “trust no one over 21” or was it 30 or 50 or 60 or 70?
As one who is both of the Christian tribe and the Jewish tribe, by birth, and concedes that the power of both, I have appropriated these Abrahamic traditions into my life with gusto. Had I been born or raised in Asia, I might have been of the Islamic tradition (another of the Abrahamic religions) or of the Tao tradition in which I place deep respect. Or perhaps even better, I place my hopes in the heart of all religions which do not place me or us at the center or pinnacle of Creation, rather I bow to the centrality of Being and Non-Locality of Consciousness.
Autumn perhaps reflects our human ambition to grow and mature enough to begin mellowing an ripening in the fullness of being, reflecting the intention of the universe for all of us is, regardless of when life or death cuts us off from the source, or better returns us to the source. Within a few weeks, the Harvest Moon will reflect the dazzling wonder of our Creation. Saturn, the “bringer of old age” looms above us, appearing with Jupiter, at their brightest in the night sky from dusk until midnight making their annual journey westward. Whatever our age though, we are forever marked by the memories and impulses of autumn: some rich and others mournful. Whichever, we are marked as denizens of the universe on a constant trek into life and wonder.
So today I can only offer Godspeed. May the beloved RBG rest in peace as the tsaddik (a holy one/a saint as attested to as one who leaves this life on the sabbath and on the event of the new year) she was leading a worthy life . . . indeed. It’s Autumn . . . a time of change, of transformation, of endings and of beginnings, of years ending and of lives beginning—a season in which we realize once more, our eternal gratitude.