Arising this morning with temps hovering in the upper 30s, a familiar chill, too soon driven away by the warm, but fading, autumn sun. The high desert first revealed the change with the blossoming of bright yellow Broom Snakeweed proliferating the landscape. But now most of the grey green bushes of Chamisa, covered with golden medallions of flowers, give us allergies for weeks, and remind us that we are caught up in change.
Green grasses have faded to white and beige burnished by the sun as the remarkable abundance of this year’s rain (9.25 inches since January) has disappeared into the clouds. It is really autumn, and by the end of the week the daily high temperatures will hover in the 60s, as freezing nights beckon to us to hunker down deep into the covers till morning.
There is an inevitability about these weeks after summer, before winter. Loss, being a natural part of human life, seems omnipresent when autumn comes. But we learn to live in trust, reminding that we may well lose many things across a lifetime. But we can find them again in deeper ways. While there are few things that we can ultimately take with us, we can be still for moment, letting something else of greater strength manage us and our lives in the world.
This probably why Rosh Hashanah—Jewish New Year— and Yom Kippur—Day of Atonement—as well as harvest festivals of Thanksgiving and Succoth, and our commemoration of All Saints and All Souls are autumn celebrations. Acceptance is a hallmark of the spiritual path. It deals not with what might have been, but with that which is.
To celebrate, I went up on the mountain (Baldy) over Santa Fe in September to Aspen View, at the 10,000 foot level, to scatter the last mortal remains—the ashes—of my aunt, Jean, who died nine months ago. Like the pangs of birth, the universe signaled, through a deep inner message, to let go of this last vestige of her physical life. Reciting the Mourner’s Kaddish from the Hebrew Prayer Book, followed by a short canticle and then saying the Lord’s Prayer and committal, I completed the final obsequies.
My thinking, Why the mountain? Jean loved outdoor sports and had a penchant for gold. As with every Autumn, the green quaking Aspens have now become bright shimmering yellow gold, before giving up these tokens of their life. Each autumn, when the mountains appear to have been re-painted by a careless painter in yellow gold, I gratefully remember . . . Jean, and so many who have passed. She is at peace and so am I. Amen. Welcome to autumn.