Autumn is a season of contraction in my mind; a pulling inward of impulse and energy in order to prepare for the bitterness of winter. I tend to find my emotions trending more negatively and my outlook on life a bit dimmer as the sunlight arrives earlier every evening. Autumn is casting off, letting go and a hiding of secret treasures.
I released my given name a few months ago, replacing it with a chosen name of my own. Many days since have involved calling and emailing and mailing all manner of companies, telling them who I am now. I’m excited for the eventual newness, but am more in a place of reminding and replacing each piece of my life right now.
For my daily work of art, I collected a leaf that had been dropped by a tree. It was a strange find in that it was still green and soft, whereas most leaves at this point in the season are brittle, brown and fading. It felt like my previous name in a way, not retired because I died, but ensconced into my history as a memento to who I was while some of the life was still in it.
I am still who I was, but there will likely be a richness and fullness of presence I’ve only been able to achieve by transitioning to a new name that represents myself past, present and future more robustly. It’s bittersweet, in the way I’m sad to see the trees become barren, but yet I hold a tiny flame burning in anticipation of the explosion of green the spring will bring. What is autumn to you? What are you letting go of or secreting away, knowing it is necessary for growth?
I’ve created several card decks but I didn’t feel ready to try a new style other than my Simple Pleasures deck today! I’m struggling with my emotions and wanted to experience something familiar and comfortable. The card I pulled helped me hone in on a sensory experience that reconnected me to nature and to myself.
I chose to focus on the texture of a leaf. The leaf I chose was freshly shorn from the tree, so it was soft rather than brittle. It felt almost paper-thin, especially at the edges. The part that was most pleasant to touch was the stem which was tapered, smooth and came to an abrupt end where it had left the branch. Held in the palm of my hand, the leaf felt nearly weightless.
As I’d written in past weeks, touch is one of two senses (along with vision) that brings me the most joy, and my interaction with a piece of nature provided that for me today. I cannot get over how many sensory experiences I leave only to looking, instead of fully engaging with them through all of my body’s capacities. What was the last natural object that left an impression on you? Which textures do you enjoy experiencing in nature?
In terms of moon cycles, I connect the changes with energy surging outward and then retreating inwards, much as the tide against the shore. The moon is waning today which to me signifies a movement from the manifestation of the full moon towards the inner-directed intentionality of the new moon. I hold fall/autumn in the same phase, as I tend to start to withdraw a bit and cocoon myself more as winter approaches. It’s a good day to make a cup of tea and get cozy.
I learned today there are also solar cycles which last 11 years. Apparently each cycle usually starts off slowly and builds towards a heightened frenzy of sunspots around five to six years in. We are entering the last part of cycle 24, so there is a minimal amount of activity. Sunspots, counter to my intuition, are actually cool areas on the surface of the sun that can be related to “twists” or pent-up magnetic energy that then explodes into a solar flare. Solar flares can impact earth activities such as radio communications. Cycle 24 is predicted to end late this year or early next year, so, for now, all signs are pointing toward a slower, more deliberate pacing of life. How do you connect to moon and sun cycles? To which other cycles in nature do you most relate?
Intimacy with nature need not involve a miles-long hike into the deep forest. Anything of the earth can provide a touchpoint that reconnects to our senses. With this in mind, for today’s simple pleasure, I took a walk to a local park to enjoy the start of the fall foliage.
I began my walk through my backyard which is filled with trees and bordered by a stream. I heard a rushing noise and thought it was odd that the stream was flowing with so much intensity on a bright, chill day. I finally perceived that the sound was instead being produced by the slightly-dry leaves rustling against each other in the birch trees. It is at once a gentle and a playful noise that I wish I listen to on repeat.
The scene then transitioned into viewing the stream which, as it enters the park, is filled with reeds. The grasses of the reeds are browning and mowed down, but a few solitary cattails stand proud. I was surprised to see insects and a bird hopping around as we had frost last night; the last breath of summer could still be heard.
After steering my dog past a distracting bunch of humans, I made my way to a park bench lodged underneath a tree. The shade the tree provided was cold, with an edge. I centered myself on my present awareness of my senses and my body’s response to those senses and felt soothed.
As I made my way home, the colors I saw seemed to radiate with a vibrancy I find only in fall. Green, red and blue seen in low humidity are crisp and energizing to me. I could make this walk a hundred times a year, but it is only when I direct my attention to my surroundings moment by moment that the inherent beauty of nature makes itself known. What was the most recent experience in nature you had? What impression did it leave on you?
The daily card I draw each day for my simple pleasure has been dovetailing aptly with my needs as of late. The weather dropped at least 30 degrees Fahrenheit in the past week; it’s been a hard fall into winter instead of a gentle glide into autumn. Because of the chill, a cup of tea was the perfect way to enjoy a simple pleasure today.
I selected a ginger-spearmint blend of loose-leaf tea and heated it in my cast-iron tea kettle. I’m not sure if there is a different on a physical level if tea is heated in a cast-iron, but, to my palate, it adds a particular tang and preserves the tea’s delicacy. The Mara mug I used, which is etched with leaping animals, has traveled with me through many seasons of life. I purchased it in a shop years ago in an artsy part of a city, so drinking from it stirs up my creative aspirations. What’s your favorite way to drink tea?
I practice earth-centered paganism and, to an extent, Goddess spirituality. For today’s Simple Pleasure, I cast a spell both welcoming and releasing to nature anything my Inner Being desires. I lit both a green and a brown candle to symbolize the transition between summer and winter that’s happening where I live–more brown of dying every day and less green of blooming.
As a part of my spell-casting, I pulled two cards, one read patience and one which read ancestors. I see this as symbolic of the unresolved trauma of both my predecessors and myself and the need to endure through whatever needs to be welcomed and released as I metabolize and synthesize these experiences. I visualized a swirling motion of colors during my spell, the old and dying alongside the new and fresh, blending into the present experience of nature. What type of spell do you want to cast today?
I didn’t have to go far to find a plant in whose presence I wanted to meditate. I have a young maple tree, planted a few years ago, growing near my house. I observed it using both my vision and my tactile senses.
Its leaves are beginning to turn brown, perhaps from disease, heat stress or the coming fall. As I touched them, I realized that they still feel “alive” and waxy, rather than dry and rough as they will once they fully die. The mottled surface drew in my eye as the green fades into various shades of brown.
The tree as a whole reminds me of a lanky teenager. It seems to sprout up each passing day, growing in height much more quickly than in circumference. Its shadow is small enough that, to find shade beneath it, one would need to move around again and again. I wonder what that is, to be a few decades removed from my adolescence–do I now cast a wider shadow? Has the frame of my existence filled out? What replaces growth as season after season passes by? I’m on the cusp of beginning to crinkle and develop some age spots. The tree seems content in its inbetween-ness, can I find the same easiness of presence?
Where are you at in the growth-transition-dying cycle of life, either overall or in a specific area? What is drying up and what is staking out its place in the horizon?
Today I drew the “Light a candle” card from my “Simple Pleasures” card deck I created with the intention of bringing a moment of joy into each day. I chose to light a candle I had made several months back out of soy flakes, rose essential oils and rose petals. I sat at my altar in a dark room and watched the candle flicker. As my breathing slowed, I felt closed-in and bathed in warmth. This led me to draw a few cards from various decks which portrayed a message of going inward. This time of year is where I tend to feel my energy shifting inward. A strong need to release anything unnecessary in order to fit into the small space the coming bitterness of winter requires for safety and comfort rises in me.
I drew my attention back to the candle and noticed that not only was the candle flickering, but the shadows its light cast were also shaking and sparking in and out with the movement of the candlelight. This pull to dive down into our depths is not only to find new bursts of energy but is also a call to spend time with our shadow-selves, the parts of self with which we’d rather part ways. The darkness in the room in which I sat, lit only by a single candle, mirrors for me the fullness needed to find our inner caverns and make our home amongst the wilds of our heart. What is calling you inward today?