Autumn Harvest, Autumn Spirituality

It's late Summer/Early Fall. 

This wonderful reflection below is from Parker Palmer and is a companion piece to this previous post on Autumn Spirituality.

Image - Autumn Seedheads
Artist Ruth Sta

Autumn is a season of great beauty, but it is also a season of decline.
The days grow shorter, the light is suffused, and Summer’s abundance
decays toward winter’s death. 

Faced with this inevitable winter, what does nature do in Autumn? She scatters the seeds that will bring new growth in the spring – and she scatters them with amazing abandon.

In my own experience of Autumn, I am rarely aware that seeds
are being planted. Instead, my mind is on the fact that the green
growth of Summer is browning and beginning to die. 

My delight in the Autumn colors is always tinged with melancholy, a sense of
impending loss that is only heightened by the beauty all around. I
am drawn down by the prospect of death more than I am lifted by
the hope of new life.

But as I explore Autumn’s paradox of dying and seeding, I feel
the power of metaphor. In the autumnal events of my own experience,
I am easily fixated on surface appearances – on the decline of meaning,
the decay of relationships, the death of a work. 

And yet, if I look more deeply, I may see the myriad possibilities being planted to bear
fruit in some season yet to come.

In retrospect, I can see in my own life what I could not see at the
time – how the job I lost helped me find work I needed to do, how the
“road closed” sign turned me toward terrain I needed to travel, how
losses that felt irredeemable forced me to discern meanings I needed
to know. 

On the surface it seemed that life was lessening, but silently
and lavishly the seeds of new life were always being sown.

This hopeful notion that living is hidden within dying is surely
enhanced by the visual glories of Autumn.What artist would ever have
painted a season of dying with such a vivid palette if nature had not
done it first? 

Does death possess a beauty that we – who fear death,
who find it ugly and obscene – cannot see? How shall we understand
Autumn’s testimony that death and elegance go hand in hand?

Image below : source

For me, the words that come closest to answering those
questions are the words of Thomas Merton: “There is in all visible
things…a hidden wholeness.”

In the visible world of nature, a great truth is concealed in plain sight: diminishment and beauty, darkness and light, death and life are not opposites. They are held together in the paradox of the “hidden wholeness.”

In a paradox, opposites do not negate each other – they cohere in
mysterious unity at the heart of reality. Deeper still, they need each
other for health, as my body needs to breathe in as well as breathe

But in a culture that prefers the ease of either-or thinking to the
complexities of paradox, we have a hard time holding opposites

We want light without darkness, the glories of spring and
summer without the demands of autumn and winter, and the
Faustian bargains we make fail to sustain our lives.

When we so fear the dark that we demand light around the
clock, there can be only one result: artificial light that is glaring and
graceless and, beyond its borders, a darkness that grows ever more
terrifying as we try to hold it off. 

Split off from each other, neither darkness nor light is fit for human habitation. But if we allow the paradox of darkness and light to be, the two will conspire to bring
wholeness and health to every living thing.

Autumn constantly reminds me that my daily dyings are
necessary precursors to new life. 

If I try to “make” a life that defies the
diminishments of autumn, the life I end up with will be artificial, at
best, and utterly colorless as well. 

But when I yield to the endless interplay of living and dying, dying and living, the life I am given will be real and colorful, fruitful and whole."

Taken from Seasons : A Centre for Renewal written by Parker Palmer

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