The first mist in many months appeared and lingered all morning, curling among the trees and around the garden and sheep shed. Everyone knows I have long loved this insubstantial Being: an interim element, neither air nor water. Around here, autumn is her homecoming. The arrival of mist signals that change is afoot, a shift in atmosphere and temperature, a turning of the seasons.
The afternoon and days following were clear, sun-soaked, and warm, the trees mostly as full as ever, the moss on the forest paths lush and bright emerald; the forest glowing green all around. Seasonal change is all in good time.
Nevertheless, the calendar insisted that the first day of fall was upon us. It was time to celebrate the Autumnal Equinox. Those who could gathered in the little field behind Pinestone, six adults, four children, and a dog. We had baskets full of found treasures: red and yellow leaves, persimmons, tomatoes, pawpaws, an acorn, an exquisite tiny bird’s nest. We had firelight in the form of a candle. We gave thanks, did an a-bun-dance, meditated mindfully on flowers and other things, and laughed and prayed. Thus we took special care to mark a moment, a point, called the Equinox. Because we did this with intention and with all our body and mind and spirit, it seemed important to know what we were getting ourselves into. So before community supper the next evening I did a little research.
Each time one season flows into another is an opportunity to shift focus, to move with the Earth, to change perspective and see what happens. After the Equinox the nights grow longer, twilight and darkness linger, and our inclination is to turn inward, toward the inner world of imagination and dream. The riotous, passionate, often chaotic summer simmers down to a cooler more mysterious season, which is also a time of harvest and reaping what has been sown in the illumined spring and wild summer.
Some say that Autumn actually begins August 1 and ends October 31, with the Equinox marking the mid-point. For our agrarian ancestors, the time from the Equinox to the end of October were the last harvests of the year, a rich and critically important time; a time to gather and preserve the Earth’s fruits, looking ahead and preparing for the winter to come. The Fall Equinox is the three-day period (September 21-23) when the sun appears to stand still. It is a time of balance amid change, a threshold time between what was and what will be.
The Fall Equinox is a traditional time of gratitude and thanksgiving around the world, a time to give thanks for all that has been given, for the rich harvests of soil and soul, and to turn open-heartedly to what may come in the more inward season ahead. That movement inward toward the intuitive, interior, creative self culminates on the Winter Solstice and ends at the Spring Equinox, when the energy turns and moves out again into the world.
Autumn is a derivative of the Latin “autumnus” referring to harvesting. Equinox literally means “equal night”. Day and night are each 12 hours, and the sun rises in true east and sets in true west.
Around the world, and in every culture, stories are told at the time of the Equinox, each telling of the cycle of inward turning, of letting go, of descent and dying in order to re-emerge more full and vibrant, carrying the seeds of abundance and possibility. The Greek goddess Persephone, the Hindu goddess Durga, the Celtic hero Mabon, the Corn Maiden of the Native American traditions, and more, all dance between the Autumn and Spring Equinox, tracing the cycle of death and life. These stories, released seasonally into the world, find resonance within the wisdom teachings of faith traditions all over the globe and down through time, and their words echo in our hearts. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit…”
What do we wonder, what will we hear, as we pause on this threshold, when the sun stands still? What have we received from the wild gifts of summer and held close, which we now let go? What new gifts will we find as we descend into the dark? What dreams will this interim time evoke in us? What surprises await us in the mist?