Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Wonders of Early Fall


  The Coming of Fall

We are moving into the last quarter of the year now, and all around us there are signs that the cycle we inhabit is inexorably moving onward. There are changes literally in the air, and we respond to them as humans have always had to do. It is cooler now, so we think about whether we need a long sleeved shirt and whether wearing those shorts is still a good idea. The flashing and blinking yellow lights remind us of school zones as we drive to and from work and the fact that kids are back to school. Our department stores are having “End of Summer” clearance sales, football is back, it will be a new TV season, and newspapers are now previewing the fall movies and theater seasons. Car commercials are advertising “End of the Year” sales on this year's models. Humans are changing their lives in line with the seasons.

On my morning walks I have noticed the cycle's changes as well. A lot of the flowers that so brightened up lawns and gardens a few short weeks ago are now looking a little bedraggled and done in. The wonderful sunflower thicket alongside my neighbor's house has dulled, and she has trimmed and cut it way back. The bright yellow and dark black on the goldfinches that are still zooming around the sunflowers have lost a lot of their luster as well, and their coloration is starting to change. Window boxes have flowers and plants that are starting to bend over, and the color has drained from some of them. Lawns are less vibrant, and if I look carefully, I can see that the tips of some of the trees in the neighborhood are starting change to a burnt orange. And most remarkably, the morning light seems to have taken on a new suddenness in its daily arrival. I normally start my walks about 5:45 or 6 AM, and night is still there. The moon is clearly visible on some days, stars are out, and there is that wonderful and magical sense of the mystery of darkness as I start my walk. Gradually, very gradually, the sky proceeds to lighten up so that by 6:45 or 7 the sun is clearly out and a new day is most obviously here. Now, however, that process is changing. At around 6:00 it is still dark and the sense of night is there. But by 6:40 the day has dramatically broken through-its appearance seems sudden and urgent. Most days it is bright by then, and there is shimmering sunlight reflecting off the cars, roofs and drainpipes of my street by the tie I finish my work. It was last week when I noticed that happening, and it struck me as quietly dramatic. It seemed as if the sun was bursting forth as if to announce that we weren't going to have it at full strength for much longer, and we had better notice it and make full use of it while we can. And I know-that is my take on these happenings; the solar system doesn't much care about what we do or don't make of what it does. But that thought did give me a new appreciation for the holidays and observances that start arriving at this time of the year and the rituals we have evolved to mark the ways of the cycle. Many religions- Judaism, Hindu, Islam, Orthodox Christian, Catholicism, Jainism, and more-have holy days and rituals during this month as humans world-wide work to accept and integrate their lives and existence with the cycle. And the changing of the light is, to me, one of the important reminders that we have to do that, whether we are consciously aware of it or not. For we are part of that endless cycle too, and for years our very survival depended on acknowledging that fact.

So I will watch as the visible sunlight comes at different times this month as we move closer to and beyond the autumn equinox. (And I will watch as night comes earlier and earlier, too). It is a wonderful thing to notice, and I am glad that I have the time and opportunity to be aware of it. When I retired I knew morning walking was going to be a part of my routine. And I am still awakening to all the wonderful gifts it is giving me.

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