The Autumn Garden

Today marks the beginning of Autumn, the fall equinox. It’s made a dramatic entrance, complete with thunder, lightning, high winds, and hail. Tonight, the gardens may endure a hard freeze, so we’ll be blanketing our mums to preserve their blooms.

Summer is definitely over.

We’ve enjoyed the last month’s blooms, having had to cut the buds from our midsummer plants to spare their energy during our 2-month drought. It broke my heart to miss all the lovely flowers, but the plants survived. Meteorologists and climate scientists predict more such summers, but for now, we’re enjoying the end-of-summer show and will try to prolong it as long as we can. Technically, the drought hasn’t ended, but the gardens still live, and some plants are thriving.

Yesterday, I shared a presentation on Spirituality and Aging, specifically addressing invitations life makes to our spirits in the “second half” of life, our own seasons of autumn and winter. Like the autumn garden, we may bloom in ways more richly colorful and distinctive than during our earlier seasons, and also consciously work to acquire habits that protect us against a hard freeze that would inhibit blooms we have yet to offer. While not denying or running from our deaths, wisdom counsels us to honor our mind-body-spirit integrity and its healing and wholeness in ways we may have ignored or not perceived when younger.

In her workbook for “sacred alignment,” The Spirit of Place, Loren Cruden outlines distinctive practices and ceremonies for traveling with the earth’s seasons and creating corresponding awareness, healing, and integration in our mind-body-spirit. I’ve been using the book as a resource and guide this year, and especially recommend it because of Cruden’s deep intelligence, eloquence, and educated understanding of both Eastern and Native American spiritualties. Her method of teaching and integrating these understandings with beliefs we may already hold dear and practices we may annually anticipate and repeat on our journey round the circle, is both inviting and respectful. Her work has deepened my passage through the year and enriched the path considerably.

Using the Native American medicine wheel as a spiritual model, Cruden guides us through the year from East to South, to West and, finally, North. The journey circumscribes our days, months, years, and lifetime, and seen this way, enhances each.

The East/Spring is seen as a time and place for spiritual awakening, for perceiving the vision quest with clarity and perspective.

The South/Summer invites us to engage with this purpose, test ourselves and enhance our creativity, while expanding our experiences and relationships.

When we turn to the West/Autumn quadrant of the circle, our energy best aligns with the harvest, the setting sun. We are invited to step into Mystery, integrate through introspection, reflection, welcome “non-ordinary” states of mind and deep acceptance of who we are. Cruden states that the “…West is a place of sorting and letting go and of conscious participation in acts of power. The vision perceived in the East and engaged with in the South now becomes multidimensional, and its broader and more subtle implications are made apparent.”

During our North/Winter season of the day, or year, or our lifetime, our vision becomes manifested and embodied. It is the time for wisdom to inhabit our being and to be shared with the community.

Cruden goes into much greater depth in her analysis of the wheel’s journey and offerings, offering weekly practices as travel companions and teachers, and I have come to deeply value her lessons on my journey.

Today, the equinox tells me that I have circled to the West/Autumn of the year, and of my life, and so I look forward to its inward, intuitive lessons and the release of what is finished and past. Now the work of the heart, deepening consciousness, and self-acceptance is engaged, and like the rest of nature, I “store energy” for the days and spiritual tasks to come. Like the autumn garden, I’ll finish engagement with the energy of blooming and retreat into the quiet time of sorting, letting go, and listening as my day, year, and lifetime grow more deeply into Mystery.

Equinox Blessings to All:

In our harvesting of the year’s gifts, in beginning the journey inward, in honoring the dying back and down, in recounting our losses and leave-takings, in creating our poetry of gratitude…in being with stillness and silence–May the gifts of the Spirit be rich in our hearts and wisely offered to the world.

Gentle peace.

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8 thoughts on “The Autumn Garden

  1. Excellent K….For someone who has endured a horrific summer of drought, your gardens looks exquisite! I am most impressed! I will have to get that book and sit with it a while. Sounds enriching. The more connected to the seasons and to Gaia herself we become, the more meaning our life holds…Wonderful post and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Enjoy a beautiful Autumn in all of its vibrant colors and splendor K….Sending you love and warm blessings…..VK

  2. Kitty, such a beautiful post, and yes, your garden looks lovely in spite of the difficult summer. I am about to embark on a new year long project, so your essay spoke directly to my heart and mind, confirming some things and posing new options as well. I look forward to reading “The Spirit of Place” as I am focusing on that very thing, both as a music/nature project and in my inner life. Thank you for sharing; your presentation must have been wonderful 🙂

    • Oh, Lynn, your project sounds intriguing! Cruden’s books have been on my shelves for years but this one, in particular, has affected me so deeply these past three seasons. I hope you’ll find it enriching. Thank you, as always, for taking time to read my posts and share your depth.

  3. The fields of us ripe with harvest, and plenty, in spite of the drought, plenty to share? Baskets of treasures to pass on – and just in time for school, for teaching, for hand outs, for seminars, for blogs! I agree, your presentation must have been wonderful.
    I love your new header photo.

    • It was so much fun and wonderful day of enrichment, that’s for sure. I was honored and happy to be part of it. Thank you re: the photo; it’s from the dog park we visit. (Last year. Colors aren’t quite there yet this year, except for the very trees most stressed by the summer’s lack of rain…) Thank you for your visits and sharing, and speaking of “sharing our harvests,” may your own wisdom guide students towards their yearned-for self-discoveries and wholeness! 🙂

  4. It is only now, that I’ve gotten to your post. I noticed it, when it came out, but because there was so much going on in my life at that moment, I waited to read it till I would have a beautiful quiet moment, that would be appropriate for your words. We get to know the music we love, and the writing that has special value, and then try and find the right way to assimilate these things into our lives. And this night, after a long day, I went to sleep early… and awoke in the middle of the night. And it seemed just the right time to read your words… And it was a great pleasure Catherine. Your words, your pictures, and your thoughts… and sharing just a wee bit in your appreciation of a writer and a book that you’ve learned from… a great pleasure. I’m sorry that you and your neighbors have suffered so from the drought, and rejoice with you at the new season. May it be a time of richness, of much water, and depth. For us, the wind represents spirituality, and the rain, materialism. Of course, we love and enjoy materialism, but it has to be accepted in suitable portions and proportions. My best wishes to you for a beautiful and meaningful autumn.

    • I couldn’t sleep either last night, Shimon, and for a time for my friends and companions and shared my gratitude…it humbles me and makes me happy that our words and spirits have connected so; peace to your day and thank you so much for beautiful blessing. I so appreciate your deep wisdom and ways of honoring balance.

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