Dear hearts, welcome to the season of harvests and angels.
This week gives us the feasts of the Archangels (also called Michaelmas), the Guardian Angel, and St. Francis of Assisi. And it’s just been fall equinox and the inevitable turn toward winter. Quite a collection of “minor holidays.”
Mabon–one of the names for the fall equinox–is the celebration of the fruit harvest. It’s the time for apples and grapes, the fruits of the Dionysian life, the intoxicating fruits of cider and wine.
It’s also the time when in many parts of the northern hemisphere, deciduous trees’ leaves start to turn new colors and if we’re lucky, we see the trees as though for the first time. And soon enough, we will see their skeletons.
For Now and What Is Coming
For now, though, in Portland, Oregon, the ivies and the maples, the tulip poplar, the berry trees and their kind, are all changing. It’s still warm–80 degrees Fahrenheit, or so–but the light has definitely changed. It slants across the landscape and turns everything bronze in the late afternoon. And that change, that slant, that angle the brings less light to the leaves has everything to do with why the changes happen.
Nearly every year, if I am blessed to be in a place with turning leaves, I think, “What genius thought this up?” This glorious display of totally profligate beauty at the end of the year always takes my breath away.
A dear friend and colleague, one of our comrades, told a story about changing leaves recently. She is facing some difficult health challenges, the kind that really confront you with mortality, limitation, medical decisions, and priorities. It was she who taught me (and who learned it from another colleague) a hidden truth about the turning leaves.
Chloroplasts, those little tiny mechanisms in the interior of plant cells, are the generators of chlorophyll in leaves. The chloroplasts are responsible for the transmutation of sunlight into energy (a process I still find miraculous!), and the process turns the leaves green.
So where do the colors come from? The ones Percy Bysshe Shelley called, “Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red” in his glorious poem, “Ode to the West Wind.” Why does the limiting of light bring out new colors in the leaves?
The answer, I learned, is that it doesn’t.
What it does, rather, is limit the action of those greening, energy-producing miracles, the chloroplasts. The slanting, waning sun reveals what was already there all along, masked by the green.
How flippin’ cool is that?!
The glory of “yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red” was there all along. It is in the essential character of the leaves, the essential color. I imagine it’s a bit like imagining how our blood looks when it doesn’t have the oxygen that turns it red. Yes, it’s a limitation, a relinquishing of energy and vitality, and it is brightly brilliant gorgeous high autumn.
And then soon enough, here in the Pacific Northwest, the rains will come. The rains will come and knock the loosely connected leaves from their branches and leave only the compelling bleak skeletons behind. Another relinquishing, but relinquishment into sleep.The sap will settle and the trees will wait. I will wait to see what they look like when the light returns in spring.
Relinquishment only into sleep. Maybe that’s the story of a life well lived. Relinquishment that reveals our essential character–one we may earnestly pray is one whose colors are worth seeing and admiring. And then relinquishment into sleep, into transformation, into the long change of death.
That is what equinox says to me. That, should we live long enough, we will all turn this corner from leaply greening leaves into the revelation–”apocalypse,” in Greek, remember!–of more and more of ourselves until all that is left is that most essential character. Until all that is left are a separated spirit and body and a history we hope blesses the world.
Today, as Rev. Rebecca Ann Parker says, let us choose to bless the world. Bless the world so that when we are left, compellingly stark against the winter sky, the legacy of our long legacy will continue to do our work.
Blessings of mid-autumn to you, my friends. Blessings upon blessing.
Your Presence Is Necessary
As we observe the “Trick or Treat” of Hallowe’en and Samhain, I’m hoping that several of you will come to our observance on Sunday the 28th at 4 pm Pacific, 7 pm Eastern.
Come with a mask. Come with spirals of eyeliner drawn on your face. Come with a glass of something your ancestors, however recent, liked to drink. Come with just yourself, ready to acknowledge that we all come from somewhere, and that tricks and treats, both, are part of the deal. Come thinking on the interdependent web of which we are all a part.
And, if you are so inclined, help this femme out and step into the Circle with me. I need one or two more people to make everything as delicious as I’m hoping for it to be.
Thanks and Encouragement
Thanks so much to everyone who so enthusiastically participates in the sharing of ourselves, our lives, and our faces on the Beloved Selfies thead each Monday (and following) in community Facebook group for The Way of the River.
If you are a Facebook user, I invite you to come and get to know some of your comrades better, to share what feels good to share, and to soak up some good, community juiciness.
Just pop on over to https://www.facebook.com/groups/TheWayoftheRiver/
Give us a chance to come to know one another better, spend some time lurking around the edges, and then answer a Be Nourished prompt, offer a Beloved Selfie, ask for help, or share something you think your comrades might like.
As ever you are welcome. YOU are welcome.