Even though its official start is still weeks away, autumn in the Northern Hemisphere unofficially began a few days ago with the start of September, and the spring, likewise, in the Southern Hemisphere. The yellows of August are beginning to burnish into the deepening harvest gold of fall. We are already beginning the ninth month in our journey around the sun. There are now two hours less light each day, as our planet leans away from the sun, compared to June. Nature seems to get into it long before we realize the change.
The hummingbirds have kicked up their activity putting on calories for the long treks of thousands of miles to the south—Mexico and Central America. The seed-seeking birds, among them: Finches of all kinds and boisterous indigo Western Scrub-Jays and Piñon Jays, Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers. There’s even been a few brilliantly-colored Western Tanagers making appearances as if this were the last stop before winter. Because of demand, I am refilling the feeders each day now, walking through the newly sprung two-to-three foot tall lavender and purple mountain aster stalks, about to bloom this week. Perhaps most telling of all though is the usual silence of a summer morning is now consistently broken by the shrill slicing sounds and peeps of the crickets singing. They are clearly responding to the abbreviated light of the approaching end of a season of warmth and growth.
There are clear measures of these days when children return school and adults to university and the routine of jobs and responsibility. The inevitability of this season brings about thoughts of loss and endings, natural aspects of human life. If you think about it, we lose many things over the course of a lifetime, ultimately our lives, reminding that there is little that we can take into autumn other than memories of the summer past or of summers long past. Thus the invitation of this time is to sit quietly and be still for just a moment in the waning sunlight and recall the warmth, the splendor, the delight and sheer wonder. Perhaps this the time to let something else or someone else larger than us help manage our lives and the challenges we face in this world.
Acceptance is the inevitable journey we must make in any spiritual pursuit. It is not about what might have been, but with that which is. What a great deal to take in at this moment; what with the events of our departure from Afghanistan after 20 years, the earthquake in Haiti, the damage and heartache of a hurricane, the god-awful decisions in Texas regarding the autonomy of woman and a woman’s right to choose, as well as the ongoing tragedy of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a lot. Just take in a breath with the word that/and release with which is. It will set the rhythm of autumn in your heart, mind and spirit. And to get us in the mood, be reminded that we are midst of the eight days of the Jewish New Year: Rosh Hashanah (Sept 7) and Yom Kippur-the Day of Atonement (Sept.16).
Over these remaining weeks of warm and pleasant weather, and devastating wild fires, hurricanes, pandemics and re-settlement of refugee neighbors, it may be helpful to remember that life is always a struggle; sometimes, even against the odds. Nonetheless, we are tenacious people whose fundamental penchant is for compassion and mercy, for help and solidarity, and for support and sustenance. “Our better angels,” as President Lincoln once described them, have always been to lift the downtrodden and liberate the oppressed. God knows there is a great deal of oppression around us, no matter where we are. It is easy to become distracted in the midst of political and social divisiveness, yet our fundamental sense of calling is always to render aid and support to no matter who it is. It is our essential human nature. Indeed, there are challenges aplenty for all of us to wrap our arms and souls around.