Autumn sings to me via her unique, improvised melody of change. She is different from the other seasons, so distinctly herself, and integral to my senses and psyche in a way no other time of year can match. Her wind brings cooler air, the crisp scent of living things casting away the old in a spiral dance of saffrons and russets and earthen hues all claimed back to the earth himself. She is the time of harvesting grains and gourds, but also harvesting ideas and sun-kissed inspiration, readying it for the time of gathering by the hearth to place pen to paper, paint to canvas, voice to tales, and beyond.
She is all the stories that bring communities together in the winter months, families sharing hot drink beside the flame that keeps away both chill and dark. She is the advancing night sky, the twinkling lights of the ancestors above us spending lengthier hours guarding from on high. She is a time of connection as we return to our homes, re-enacting rituals of generations or crafting new traditions as we are called to do, treasuring those internal spaces all the more for the comfort of emotional and physical warmth after coming in from the cold.
In the traditional land of my spirituality this time of year would also represent a time of cooling, a closing of windows, a preparation of shrines for the colder points of the year. Yet the harvest was still long off; the third month of Akhet includes festivals to welcome the still-rising Nile, greeting the flood before it recedes and growth begins. It was a time to ask the blessings of Hethert, who presides over the month, and to continue efforts towards ones goals.
I appreciate this contrast, and find my blessings in the closeness I feel to others in my small corner of the world as the sun wanders away and we gather together in the darkness to await the Eye’s return. I find beauty in the light we create through shared meals, shared stories, shared moments of internal creativity brought to the forefront. We have more reason look within and subsequently encouragement from those who gather beside us to bring it without, to share and draw closer to one another. My personal goals often involve doing things for others, serving the communities I care for, and so this time of year gives me tremendous opportunity to do so. The sun sets earlier and rises later, so all the more reason for ritual candles to be lit, all the more reason for communal songs to be sung. I am given purpose in this season, both as I celebrate it here in Pennsylvania, and as I might have celebrated it in Egypt.
That purpose can only be fulfilled if I also look to my own needs, and Autumn holds me in that regard. She reminds me of transitions, of the only constancy in life being that nothing is constant. She allows me to let go of what was old, let it wither and feed the changes that will come again in time. There are always new beginnings, She says, but those beginnings require a casting away of what might hold you back.
A leaf falls, and I give it my difficulties with trust.
A leaf falls, and I name it remembered trauma.
A leaf falls, and the wind carries away my belief that I am worthless.
A leaf falls, and I watch my fears about my health drift away.
They are not magically gone, of course. It will take time for them to return to the earth, rot away, and become that which feeds new growing things in the soil. In the meantime, the limbs of the beloved oak outside my window are laid bare, as are my emotions: raw, naked, unadorned with the beautiful lie that everything is always “okay.”
But new leaves will grow, after many new returns of the sun, rising and passing overhead as I struggle towards acceptance and adjustment. Each dawn brings me a little closer to the final fresh start that I crave, each dusk gives me a night of creative effort and community. Autumn grants me connection to my spirit through artistic endeavor by candle light. Autumn grants me connection to those who so kindly remind me that they care as they share their stories in turn. I adore Her, the spirit of Her that lives in these Appalachian mountains. She works in tandem with my Father to help me break, then change, then grow again. They are a powerful team, the small aspect of the god Set which dwells in Western Pennsylvania, and the Autumnal netjeri of a season and a city and its people.
I light a candle for them, I sing for them, I write of their message for all who find this time difficult or painful for any number of reasons. My hope is that in sharing some aspect of why this season proves to be a blessing for me, that perhaps the darkness will feel even the slightest bit less overwhelming for others. I will gladly raise my mug to your own inspiration and connection with those you love. Be well, and may your life be changed for the better.