Monday, October 7, 2013

Autumn Lessons

Currently Reading: Small Wonder by Barbara Kingsolver and The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

I crack the door open just a bit and inhale. October has made her sweet, too-short presence known around here- in the cornstalks camouflaging from green to brown, in the apple-decorated signs pointing to orchards up the road, in the red and yellow paint-tipped treetops, and in the piles of pumpkins in every yard. My tomato plant waves farewell and I prep its box for a new planting of garlic. I cut my last crop of lemon verbena, dreaming of the tea I will make this winter. The air smells like nutmeg and cinnamon, even when there's nothing in the oven. Like sun on skin, I soak in the season, knowing all too well how desperately short it lasts. We are only one week in and I have already taken part in most of my autumn traditions: apple cider candle on the table, butternut squash soup and pumpkin muffins from the kitchen, visits to orchards and farmer's markets, decorating with leaves and gourds, reading to give myself a little chill up the spine. Cemetery visits and a Hocus Pocus night still await.

The earth is pulling back now, changing from a wild child of hot days and bare feet into a wiser, calmer woman. Each day begs me to stop and watch the transformation, even for several sweet moments. The death of leaves, floating down to nourish the ground for spring, force me to reflect on life, its hard questions and beautiful answers. I think of years past, of people with names and faces who are also now part of the ground, but also part of our collective conscience and our memories, part of our present and future in the choices they made and the lives they lived. The past and all of its lessons follow us as the sun follows its track across the sky, but I often look around and wonder if we have forgotten how to hear it and how to learn from it. It seems sometimes that we live in an age where we believe we already have all the answers, leaving no time or space for what the past might teach us, refusing to be open to the possibilities of truth. The truth pinches and stings, and asks us to take responsibility for ourselves as a society, and none of that is pretty, so we ignore it. We work hard to deny our own culpability, easily passing the buck onto our neighbors, or the government, or other religions.

In our haste to shed our responsibility, we forget that we are not alone in the human struggle. That ages of people have gone before us and we live every day with their long-ago decisions and mistakes. Those coming after us will hold our priorities and legacy up to the light someday, because our choices now will be their reality soon. Until we learn, we cannot hope to teach. When we deny our earth's changes and refuse to take steps to fix it, we ignore what people already knew 100 years ago and allow our futures to be threatened, just to maintain a standard of living we do not deserve. When we respond to terror with more violence and calls for retribution, we forget that generations have done so before, with only pain and anguish as the end result. When we erect barriers between each other, using our words and our prejudices to turn humans into statistics, we forget our own humanity. Scariest of all, when we act on self-righteousness and ignorance, we cease to hear the calls of the slave, the condemned, the internment camp, the Civil Rights marchers, and the lessons their ages told. Like weights, these lessons are heavy to hold, but we must lift them in order to gain strength as a society.

The leaves fall. The autumn, more than any other season, asks for my patience and my time, beseeching me to be still amid the rush, to think outside of myself. This is where the truth lies- in a prayer, in the silence, in the large, wide world, asking for my attention. This is the perfect time to answer.

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