"Nature is our mother. Because we live cut off from her, we get sick."
Thich Nhat Hanh

When people live in harmony with the earth, autumn is a special time. It is a time of thanksgiving for the bounty of summer. It is a time of harvest and preparation for the hardships of winter. The changing light and the cooler breezes of autumn days are reminders that the wheel of time is turning and the warmth and ease of summer are not forever.

Before there was international agribusiness, when people lived on the land where they grew their own food, they knew that their success, and even their survival, depended on their ability, not so much to dominate nature, but to discover their relationship with the natural world. Harvest rituals and celebrations punctuated the transition from summer to fall. People prayed for successful harvest. In a good year they would celebrate that there would be food to get through winter.

When fresh vegetables are available in the supermarket all year round we can easily take the harvest for granted. When we have not put seeds in the ground and watched them grow, we miss the sense of joy and relief at a successful harvest. Still, we can appreciate the change of season. We can mark the cycle of growth and inactivity. We can prepare ourselves for the coming winter.

Go outside. Open all your senses. Notice the quality of the light on an autumn day. Feel the air. Inhale deeply and smell it.

Say a prayer of thanks for the pleasures of the summer past. Give thanks for the seasons. Give thanks for the plants that give their fruit this time of year. If you can, pick a fruit or vegetable fresh. Clean it mindfully, and eat it soon after picking. Enjoy its freshness.

Watch for the migration of birds. If you hear the honking of geese, go outside and observe their flight. Honor the wisdom of the creatures of nature who know when it is time to go and how to get where they need to be.

Look to the care of your dwelling and your vehicles. See that they are prepared for the challenges of fall and winter. Make your home snug for winter and see that it does not waste energy.

As trees turn to autumn colors, take time to see them. Look a little longer. Let yourself be awed by the change.

As you rake fallen leaves, clip back garden plants or work with your compost, reflect on the cycles of life. Remember that nothing is permanent.  Growth and decay require each other. Consider that as the soil is enriched through the decay of a fallen leaf, the soul is enriched as losses and failures are turned to wisdom and compassion.

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© 2000-2005 Tom Barrett