Article originally published on September 22, 2004

We have reached the season of spectacular change!  The hottest days are past and each is shorter than the last.  Groves on mountains take on brilliant colors.  The state fair is over and school is in full swing.  Everywhere, everyone seems more active and ready to get things done.  Indeed, there is much to be done, for crops are ripe: it is the season of the harvest!

The autumnal equinox, this year on September 22,is the day when the sun crosses the equator from the Northern to the Southern Hemisphere.  On this day, the sun rises exactly in the east and sets exactly in the west.  Harvest Moon, the full moon occurring just before the autumnal equinox, rises at a point exactly opposite to the sun. There is equal day and equal night.  It is a time of perfect balance.

This is the time of the retreat of light, and from here, the nights overtake the days.  Now is the time that we reap what we have sown and are given the support by Nature to let go of past pain and fear.

Autumn is the time of harvest.  It is a time to gather up the fruits of our labors, to give thanks for our bounty, and to prepare for the winter to come.

Here in the north it is autumn, while far to the south, across the equator, spring has arrived.  It happens every year and we all feel it.  Many enjoy it; others tolerate it; but perhaps we could give more thought to what brings it.  It is only in the last 7 years that I observe the solstices and equinoxes as being dramatic days in the course of nature, when there is a specific alignment of space, matter, energy and time.  If we truly are of this universe, and are made of matter and energy, we are also a part of this event.  Consciously or not, I believe that we experience the seasons internally.

Ancient people were aware of these cycles of the cosmos, and were aware of being part of this phenomenon themselves, biologically, emotionally and spiritually.  Sometimes it is difficult to conceive of riding on a great spinning ball of rock, with pockets of water, all surrounded by a wisp of gas, zooming around a star.  It was only a few hundred years ago that it was the sky that moved.  Anyone could see that the Sun god leapt from his sleep each morning to ride the sky and shower blessings down upon his children.  Then stars moved about to beautify the night.  We must be special, being at the center of all this: nourished by warmth and light; refreshed by coolness and the beauty of a jeweled ceiling; given enough, yet not too much.  We honored the seasons of change taking place inside as well as outside, knowing them to be the same.

The ancient Celts interpreted this transfer of light to dark, as they did all dramatic changes in the Earth and Sky, both literally and figuratively.  They celebrated the universal story of Mabon.  Mabon was the Son of Light.  His mother was Modron, the great Mother Earth.  Three days after being born to Modron, Mabon disappeared.  Modron was distraught, the Son of Light was gone.  After many years Mabon was set free through learning the wisdom of the ancient animals, even though he had been safe all along in Modron’s Underworld, her womb.  There, he was nurtured in the darkness.  He brought the light into Mother Earth until he could emerge powerful enough to take over the darkness once again.  The Light now had enough wisdom and strength to plant the new seed.

The Autumnal Equinox is a time to prepare for the new life and light that eternally begins.  We go into the darkness to gather strength and wisdom.  We gather with friends and loved ones to renew our reserves.  We feast on the gifts of the harvest.  We know that sometimes there is sorrow, sometimes joy.  We know that light will win again, but we must enter the darkness to get there.  This is not a cause for grief, for no matter what the season we do well to celebrate its gifts.  Imagine a planet that does not have rotation axis tilted to its orbit.  Everyday would be the same: half light, half dark, no seasons, very little change.  Perhaps it is change itself that most deserves our revelry, for we are creatures of change.  The best things we do, from birth to death, result in changes for ourselves and others.

This is truly the season of releasing attachments and transforming fears!!!

I am feeling that strange and wonderful fullness that comes at this time of year, the ache that precedes the letting go of fall in anticipation of the descent into the dark of winter.  Even here in the high desert of New Mexico, the leaves are changing and the mornings are very cool.  The apples and pumpkins have come in.  We are wearing our warmies after we get brave enough to leave the cozy covers, and we hold our hot tea close to our noses.  We say goodbye to the majestic zenith of the sun in summer.

My experience of fall is that it is a natural sloughing-off time, a time of releasing the layers of our outer lives, like veils dropping to the ground.  This is paralleled by the behavior of nature at this time of year.  The leaves begin to disengage then fall from the trees; the sap (or life blood) of the plants begins to retreat from its furthest reaches and down into the earth, leaving the plants’ bodies to whither and die, turning them into compost for new life in spring. The trees are revealed, bare bones, and yet they survive the cold and dark of the season.

As a creature of Nature, my body tells me it is the time of letting go.  I feel as though I am a voluptuous fruit hanging on the vine, almost bursting to ripeness.  I feel a fullness, a sense of completion, and an ache to release and be released.  Does an apple feel this way when it is ready to drop off the tree?  Do the last tomatoes of summer long to be plucked from the vine as the frost begins to set in and the leaves start to turn?

With the letting go, there is a subsequent feeling of wistfulness that seems to go hand in hand with releasing what is familiar.  Familiar are the thoughts, beliefs, attachments, even fears that have borne me through the spring and summer, or have carried me through my life but that now no longer serve me.  To everything there is a season, turn, turn, turn.  Even my eyes feel full of tears of gratitude; the feeling of fullness is everywhere in my body.  Once again, my body reminds me that I am a creature of the earth, and subject to the same seasons and natural laws.  I feel in my body that it is time to let go.