Summer's warm scents have gone. For some weeks now we have luxuriated in the smells of fall, as the dry leaves have fallen and the land takes on a new musty earthiness. For the first time a few days ago my nose was tickled by the first hint of the coming cold weather. The first cold mornings are with us, and today a hint of early winter's rain. When winter comes we will lose the strong loamy smells as the earth freezes, and the rhododendra coil their leaves inwardly against the chill. Then, in the spring thaw, how the pugs will love it as they twitch their noses and snuffle in the newly uncovered and moist remains of fall 2017. I will love it too, as the seasonal smells are intoxicating.
This time of the year, nature, exhausted by summer's excess, is ready to curl up and sleep, mirroring our daily human round of sleep and wake, rest and activity.
It is fitting, then, that the ancients celebrated this changing season with deep symbols of the cycle of life and death, seeing this time of year as the beginning of the new.
The ancient Celts started their new year not with the coming of spring, but with the turn from fall to winter. They recognized that new life is nurtured long before spring. Seeds are sown and rest during winter. Look closely and you will find buds already forming. In the sleep of winter nature stores her energy, renews herself, and readies for the next round of activity. It's the preparation of the winter months that makes for a good spring. A too warm winter makes for a lackluster spring.
As in nature, so in life. New and fruitful initiatives begin in silence and stillness. Rest must come before activity. Storing energy makes for better growth.
At this time of the year the ancients remembered, too, those who have gone before. The change from fall to winter reminds us of death. The air is thin. The veil is as gossamer. Those who have gone before are close. As nature sleeps in winter, so our ancestors sleep and it's fitting that we honor them. November brings All Saints, and it's eve, Halloween, followed by All Souls, with Remembrance Day a little later. I'll be thinking of my family who have passed—my dad, dad-in-law, brother-in-law, and more distantly grandparents, and cousins. I'll remember with gladness friends, too, who now sleep deeply. I'll continue the British tradition and wear a poppy in remembrance, as I think of those who have died in war.
Remembrance need not be morbid. The ancients celebrated with feasting and playful mischief. In our culture, we continue the tradition with Halloween. I'll enter the fun and games and enjoy the Ithaca Harry Potter festival, weather permitting—Jane has knitted the pugs little house scarves in Gryffindor and Hufflepuff colors.
It's a season of contrasts then—the harvest of the last growth cycle gathered, the sowing of the new that is yet to be, the sleep of winter, storing, nurturing, conserving energy, and a remembrance that we are all as dust and to dust we return.
Enjoy the season!
Pic: Monkey Run, 2017