The coming of Autumn feels the most dramatic of all the seasonal shifts. At least to me. I wonder if it’s because it is a time of loss. We feel loss so much more acutely than other things. It is the fading of Summer, the dimming of light, the shortening of days. Abundance is preserved for storage. Leaves change colour and begin to fall.
I wonder, too, if I particularly notice today because I am in the Autumn of my own life. The abandon of youth long past but the (hopefully) stillness and wiser time of being an elder yet ahead.
I’ve long appreciated Macrina Wiederkhr’s poem “The Sacrament of Letting Go.” In it she celebrates this season of shift.
She celebrated the sacrament of
First she surrendered her Green
Then the Orange, Yellow, and Red…
Finally she let go of her Brown…
Shedding her last leaf
This is less about the loss of light, which is what I’m currently feeling most acutely. But it is the shorter daylight that triggers the leaves to begin to change. It is the time of harvest for the tree as it is for us, putting away food, energy, to get us through the darker days of Winter when the Sun is far away. And then letting go of what is no longer needed.
I appreciate how Wiederkhr couches the Letting Go as sacrament. It’s a kairos moment, an outward sign of an inward grace. There’s a communion feel to it. A time of tender sharing that portends an even greater loss. But a loss that, ultimately, becomes the most beautiful thing.
Trust. Hope. Patience.
She stood empty and silent, stripped bare
Leaning against the sky she began her vigil of trust…
Shedding her last leaf
She watched its journey to the ground…
She stood in silence,
Wearing the color of emptiness
Her branches wondering:
How do you give shade, with so much gone?
And then, the sacrament of waiting began
This is the stuff of daily work, to be honest. I don’t know how it is for you. For me it requires constant drawing back to practices that ground and centre – times of stillness, breath, writing, gratitude, beauty.
The loss brought by Summer’s end is a rich time of contemplation. Seasons remind us that endings are beginnings. This is a time of multiple sacraments. There is the letting go. And then there is the waiting.
The sunrise and sunset watched with
Tenderness, clothing her with silhouettes
They kept her hope alive.
They helped her understand that
her dependence and need
her readiness to receive
were giving her a new kind of beauty.
Every morning and every evening she stood in silence and celebrated
the sacrament of waiting.
The waiting is the hard part. But Wiederkhr also reminds me that while the light may have shifted and continue to shift, the Sun still rises and sets, daily modelling the rhythm of seasons and lifetimes. Vulnerability and emptiness. How we abhor them. But there is beauty in the readiness to receive what will be. How many times in my life have I learned that beauty always emerges, re-emerges. Resurrections. Sometimes those moments don’t seem nearly big enough to fill holes left by loss. But one blossom becomes two, one new leaf becomes many. It doesn’t replace the thing lost, but provides new moments to draw to life.
There are only a few leaves on the ground at this moment and just a hint of red on the edges of trees in the park. Evening are cool and the sunset earlier. But it is still twilight as I eat my evening meal and the days are Spring-warm. I revel in this and squeeze in one more picnic into the fading Summer.
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