The coming of fall: Reflections on balancing light and darkness

I grew up on a farm in rural BC in what felt like the middle of nowhere, and the center of the earth all at the same time. Time moved slowly, as it does for kids, and I remember from an early age noticing how the seasons shifted my internal experience.

Now, being a city dweller trying to balance community life with work and growing children, the transition of the seasons has become an important touchstone reminding me of my connection to this earth. As I look out at the smoke shrouding the city, reflect on the coming of fall, and tune into my internal experience in this moment, I am filled with sadness and fear (which is not what I expected to write here by the way!). I feel my connection to the earth and I feel the yearning for rain and renewal, a respite from the heat, smoke, and fire. I can’t help but wonder: Is this what our children will know as summer? Is this going to be the new normal? I allow myself to feel this fear and honour it. I witness the sensation of it come and go, and settle back in. There is a knowing I have inside as the fear gives way to sadness, that it is rooted in love; Love for this earth, for my children, for the delicate balance and interconnectedness of all living things. It is a bitter sweet feeling – both light and dark.

The autumnal equinox, which marks the official beginning of fall, is a perfect balance of light and dark; one of two times in the year where night and day are exactly equal. The last of the food in the garden is harvested, the leaves let go of their branches, and the plants shed their flowers and fruit to explore life underground in the darkness. It is a reminder of the constant and changing nature of this life, the trust that is required to enter into the darkness, and the knowledge that in allowing space to honour darkness, the leaves of new growth unfurl.

What does the season invite us to contemplate?

Acknowledging the harvest: Autumn marks the end of a growing season, when energy begins to turn inward. Reflecting on the growth and change that has taken place over the last year can help move us forward in the ways that are working, and help us recognize what we want to work on, change, or transform.

o   What seeds did I plant this past year, and what has grown?

o   Reflecting on the ‘harvest’ of this growing season, what has changed? What am I grateful for? What has been challenging?

o   How might I celebrate my ability to navigate these changes?

Letting go of what no longer serves us and embracing the darkness: In the fall, things need to die in order to create space for new growth; this is true for us too, although it is much easier said than done!!! A strong dose of self compassion and appreciation for why we developed those ways of being in the world that no longer serve us is required.

o   What is it that I want to let go of? I know the ways that it has not served me well, but in what ways has it worked to keep me safe either emotionally or physically?

o   Is there some way that I can show this part of myself some appreciation for how it kept me safe?

o   If I could let this way of being that no longer serves me go, what would I want to replace it with?

Nurturing ourselves and planting new seeds: As the days get colder, plants die, and the earth prepares for winter and the coming spring. We naturally seek out cozy sweaters, boots, scarves, and hats, that keep us warm and protect us from the colder weather. We eat warmer meals and move indoors for comfort. These external efforts to nurture and comfort ourselves, can be used as reminders to also nurture our internal world, and to plant new seeds.

o   What would nurturing my internal world look like and feel like?

o   How might this kind of nurturing impact my relationship to myself and others?

o   What seeds do I want to plant for the growing season to come?