I’m finding myself a bit melancholy this autumn. I think in some way I’m experiencing a true autumn, in that the profound changes in nature in this part of the world in this season have really penetrated my emotional life. Though I don't celebrate any festivals honoring the dead like Samhain, All Soul's or Dia de los Muertos, I still find myself thinking about people I know who have passed over the threshold.
Since this area is primarily mixed deciduous forest, we have incredible leaf colors. Burning scarlet maples, yellow walnut and weeping cherry, and every color in between. Our feet scuffle through thick layers of rotting leaves on the forest paths near our home, and the little brooks become clogged and even dammed by the piles of leaves. After rainy days, mushrooms pop up through the earth, and after windy days the paths are littered with sticks and branches.
Though we are blessed with the bluest skies of the year, our attention seems drawn down to the earth along with the falling leaves. The warmth and light of the sun now decreases in the heavens and comes closer to the earth, in the bright colors of falling leaves and autumn harvest foods such as pumpkins and apples.
Autumn seems to me to be a time of hard thoughts. In summer we are more physically active, outside most of the time, and full of the same abundant life forces we see in nature. In autumn, those life forces are dying away in the outer world, and we must struggle to maintain our inner light in the face of the coming cold and darkness.
In Waldorf/anthroposophical communities, we celebrate an unusual yet ancient festival, Michaelmas, at the end of September. In the Bible we can read in Revelation about Michael casting out the dragon from heaven down to earth. This image corresponds to the modern struggle between spirit and materialism, light and darkness. The scaly, cold, earthly dragon opposes the fiery angelic spirit.
I see a correlation between this casting down to earth of darkness and the festivals of light at this time of year. We are surrounded by jack-o-lanterns, bonfires and candles for the dead on Samhain and All Soul’s Day, the lamps of Divali, and lantern walks for Martinmas, another ancient festival celebrated in our community.
Two nice quotes about autumn:
St. Martin recognized the divine spark in the poor man of Amiens, and gave it the protection of his own cloak. When we make a paper lantern, we, too, may fell that we are giving protection to our own little “flame” that was beginning to shine at Michaelmas, so that we may carry it safely through the dark world.
-All Year Round, Druitt, Fynes-Clinton, Rowling.
The season of hope and promise is past…We are a little saddened because we begin to see the interval between our hopes and their fulfillment. The prospect of the heavens is taken away, and we are presented only with a few small berries.
-Henry David Thoreau