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The season is swirling around and I am feeling very caught up in it. I love the ride, the golden light, the crisp mornings and hot afternoons, the change in birdsong and the ripening fruit, but I am also feeling pushed and pulled all over the place. I haven't found my new grip yet. Must be the turning of the wheel into autumn.
Autumn is my favorite time of year. I love the cooler days, the yellowing plants, and the harvest. I especially love the comforting feel of the constricting energy that fall brings. In the summer, the Earth is in the height of its long outbreath. It's soul is expelled fully out to outer reaches of it's atmosphere, touching the cosmos. This gives those of us on the surface energy and freedom. We want to be outside, live outside, be up early, stay up late, run and play and swim and be in the world. I tend to feel a little frayed by the end of it all, like last season's prayer flags, faded and rough around the edges. As the earth turns towards the Winter, it begins to breathe its soul back in. This constricting energy makes me feel like I'm being given some more boundaries. A bed time seems like a reasonable idea. Sitting down to dinner instead of just grabbing some food on the run makes sense. Rebuilding the rhythms of a life that includes work as well as play, rest as well as activity. It's the back-to-school season in more ways than one.
Fall, Leaves, Fall
Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.
I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow;
I shall sing when night's decay
Ushers in a drearier day.
In my evolving wheel of the year, I call this time the Michaelmas Season. The story of Michael is one of a hero who harnesses heavenly and earthly powers to subdue and over come a primeval force of chaos and fear. There are many stories told about dragons and heroes this time of year and all of them help align us with this powerful movement of the seasons, both inner and outer.
My Quaker pastor, who's sermons are always a mix of hilarious and thoughtful storytelling, told a story this morning about a world plagued by a terrifying serpent. It lept out of the ground in a village, ripping up cobblestones, showering the area with rubble and dust, knocking people over and devouring the tinker's faithful mule. The villagers filled the hole in with rocks and logs, paved over the square and put up a statue to the mule. After a number of years the tinker was able to purchase a new-to-her mule and travel further afield selling her wares. She came upon a large city with towers and guards all around it. A friendly guard allowed her in and took her up on one of the towers to show her what the fortifications were all about. There were large cannons on each tower but instead of facing outwards, towards an enemy's army, the cannons faced inward, toward the town square. Specifically, facing the gaping hole in the middle of the square. The guard told her about the serpent and how the city had responded to the threat by building all these battlements. Everyone was expected to do their part in helping guard against the serpent threat, including a tax levied on traveling merchants and tinkers. The tinker owed, as it happened, exactly one mule.
In this time of year when we prepare ourselves for the coming darkness of winter we are also asked to prepare ourselves for the coming challenges of earthly life. There will be illness, poverty, pain, loneliness and eventually an end of this life. The story of the tinker and her mules mules reminds us that we can prepare for these inevitable burdens in any number of ways, some of which are actually more detrimental than beneficial. Michael provides us with heavenly iron to arm ourselves this time of year, but the real defense against debilitating fear is internal strength and courage. These things come from the dynamic interplay between God's love and providence, and our own willful building of our lives.
We wait in hope for the LORD;
he is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice,
for we trust in his holy name.
May your unfailing love be with us, LORD,
even as we put our hope in you.
Psalm 33:20-22, New International Version
I marked the Michaelmas with some of my favorite September activities. I put up my St. Michael and the Dragon mobile, watched the swifts at Chapman School and woke up for the sunrise on Equinox morning. I went again to my favorite fall fruit picking field and walked around as the sun creeped up behind Mt. Hood. I made dragon bread the night before, a new Michaelmas activity for me. Bread dragons are easy to vanquish and nourishing as well. At the field, I found a lovely pear tree in full fruit and happily accepted the gift. In prayer, I have been given the image of a pear tree, laden with full and heavy fruit hanging within easy reach, as an image of God's provisions available to me. Pears seem a perfect image for God's gifts. The fruit is earthy, woman shaped and sweet but bruises easily so must be conscientously picked and preserved. It is not a windfall treat.
As the sun came up, all pink and orange, over the misty autumn field I laid out my feast and said my thank yous. Thank you sun, thank you mountain. Thank you pear tree and grain field. Thank you morning and thank you evening. Most of all, thank you autumn!
How are you marking the turning of the wheel into Autumn? What dragons are you facing these days and how are you preparing to meet with them? Are your preparations costing you more mules than they need to? What's your favorite kind of autumn fruit?
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Autumn Equinox 2009: The Autumnal Equinox and The Earth is Breathing its Soul Back In
Autumn Equinox 2010: Here Be Dragons and A Dragon Tale for Michaelmas