We're quickly nearing the official start of the fall season, and already here the weather has started to shift. Today, as I look out my office window, I see a cool grey sky and tree tops being blown by a strong wind. The leaves have entered the next phase of their life cycle...their movement toward death. Soon they'll start falling to the ground in a sort of potter's field of red and yellow and orange. And all of this reminds me of why I love this time of year, though, for many, it can also be challenging.
For me, fall has always been a welcome change to summer's heat and intensity. The outward expansion of summer is met by the colder, more inward, energy of fall. I love summer - doors and windows open, we're out exploring the world, meeting friends, traveling, and are often more active than at other times. But the contrast that fall offers is irresistible to me. (Not to mention the tapestry of color the trees provide!)
It was a blazing hot summer, years ago, when a dear friend said, "I'm sick of these sunny days." She was in the midst of a breakup when we had a two-week heat streak with temperatures in the upper 90s and nothing but sun, sun, sun. "I just want one rainy day," she sighed. And I knew what she meant. The heat and sun left her feeling she had to go out and "enjoy" the day, but one rainy day would give her the excuse she felt she needed to stay home and do what every cell in her body longed to do. Grieve.
Grieve the death of her relationship. She didn't want to be "sunny" about it, she wanted to have a good cry, and she longed for a rainy day to complement her mood and the grieving process. She wanted to contemplate this transition in her life.
Of course not everyone needs a rainy day to be their excuse to stay home and be contemplative, but it helps. And, for me, that's what fall represents. It presents the contrast to all that we typically hold up as our "ideal" - sun, hot, light, expansion - and (re)introduces us to that which we often try and avoid - cold, dark, contraction. Fall often symbolizes aging, death, and the silence that accompanies them.
Fall represents the end of nature's life cycle. All around us we find evidence of the reality that we know all things face. But, more symbolically, we sense the energy of things slowing down, and if we welcome this change, this can be a time of retrospection and reflection for us. If you're anything like me, then you welcome the opportunity to simply "be" that fall seems to invite. And the insight and clarity that slowness and silence make possible. You may even choose to reflect on the impermanence of all things - this moment, this day, this time in our lives, relationships, and, ultimately, this life.
This is not meant to be depressing. In fact, if you've ever allowed the natural life cycle of a moment, a period of time, a relationship, a person, to be as it is - impermanent - you may know the sense of reverence that grows out of that awareness. You likely know the deep sense of gratitude and appreciation for life that this acceptance of "how things are" engenders. You may have had your moments, upon this type of reflection, infused with a profound sense of meaning and a love of life that you'd not known before.
I once heard a radio program on NPR (that's National Public Radio in the U.S.) lament the end of summer and the start of fall. Gone, it said, were the hot summer days full of fun and friends. In, they said, was the return of the darkness and the cold (read: death, both real and symbolic). But perhaps they've missed fall's greatest invitation - to go in, to "be with", and to contemplate and deeply know this life in the process.
Do you love fall? If so, what do you love about it?