As we approach the autumn equinox, which is a point of perfect balance within the year, wind and rain have heralded a palpable change in the season. Though the vegetation is still green and the trees are clinging to their foliage, the first few leaves litter the park. I notice berries everywhere: fat clusters of rowan, glossy rosehips, fiery sea buckthorn and white snowberries. Fungi still fruits and disappears overnight. Seeds latch on to clothing and drift through windows. The heating is on once more and I often wrap a blanket around me to keep me warm. The nights have darkened rapidly and it won’t be long before we put the clocks back.
Night and day are equal on the equinox, as they are in spring, but this time, the hours of darkness will take over, with the nights lengthening until the solstice in December. This is the time for turning inwards, both physically, when we don’t feel so much like leaving the house, but also mentally. It’s the season of the mind and of the soul, when we can rest, be still and concentrate on intellectual and spiritual concerns. If we’re willing to embrace the darkness, this can be a time of deep creativity.
But before the stillness arrives, the turbulent energies of this transition must come into equilibrium. It’s a season of storms in the physical world and just as in the spring, it can be a challenging time mentally, as we let go of the light and expansion of summer and accept the coming darkness and repose. For me, it brings a return to a challenging time of year in my day job after a couple of weeks of holiday, when I once again feel constrained by the routine stresses that suck energy from family life and creativity. In her excellent post, Unpeeled, Helen White captures many of the things I am feeling at this time of year.
At Lammas, we celebrated the grain harvest, but at the equinox, we celebrate the completion of the harvest, when the final fruits and vegetables are brought in. It’s a time of reckoning, when our ancestors would discover whether or not the harvest was enough to see them though the winter. In the UK, this is a crucial harvest for many farmers, after the wet summer last year and this year’s long winter and slow spring. If you’re like me, you buy your groceries without giving too much thought to the effort involved in bringing them to harvest – I hardly noticed the bad harvest last year, because I could still buy the fruit and vegetables I wanted. This year, I’ve been learning more about what it takes to produce the food I eat and it’s given me a great respect for all the attention paid to each crop.
But this is a time of reckoning for all of us, when we identify and celebrate our more personal achievements. The goals we set in spring with hopefulness have either come to fruition or not. This is a good time to gather together symbols of what you have achieved this year – completed work, plaudits, awards, complimentary words, new ideas, new connections – and display them in your own ‘harvest festival’.
But the cycle always continues, so just as the farmers will be planting new seeds into the stubble of the current harvest, it’s also time to begin thinking of the seeds you will nurture next spring. Consider what went well this year and what you could do differently to have a more bountiful harvest next year. And begin to think about the ideas you can contemplate and refine during the long winter slumber, ready to be sown in spring.
If you’re in the southern hemisphere, you will be experiencing the spring equinox, so you may find this post of interest.