As much as I love this time of year, it takes grace to intentionally step into Autumn.
We can let the seasons happen to us – drifting through life – or we can fuel the courage to be present. To engage with the reality of now, and all that might mean.
The Summer is definitely past. Vegetation is dying back. Leaves are turning and falling. And the grey Welsh sky is perfecting its muted shades. I now need several layers of clothes and definitely boots to tramp around the valley.
Autumn is beautiful and fruitful in a melancholy sort of way.
Standing in the woods, looking up at the wind playing with the tree tops, I sense the challenge of the times. Both for me personally and I suspect for others.
We have so much to let go of. The joys and the sorrows that brought us here, to this place, to the ‘now’ in our lives. But we can’t take them with us into Autumn. They have served their time and we can’t change or perpetuate them. They just ‘are’ and we have to let them go.
Open to being changed
One of the magnificent sights of early Autumn is the fungi in the valley. They are amazing with their extravagant forms and colours. Apparently coming from nowhere, appearing overnight.
The biological process of fungi formation is extraordinary. Certain conditions – damp, decaying material, a level of warmth – are required for the spores to germinate. Otherwise they may lie dormant for years.
Another term for them are ‘fruiting bodies’. This too gives the sense of being the product of necessary time and place. But none of this happens unless the weather conditions are right – autumnal – and existing organic matter is starting to decay. This is evidence of change happening.
So we too have to be open to being changed. This is the start. And the only way we can let go of all that has gone before. Whether it’s a past experience we want to cling onto, or a hurt that troubles us.
We cannot escape Autumn, even if we try to hide away and isolate ourselves. It’s a necessary part of the cycle of life. We can resist it – spending huge amounts of energy doing so – or recognise it’s the place from which new life comes… eventually…
And others cannot make the change for us. We are the ones who have to yield up our successes and failures like falling leaves. To let go our our old identities and even ways of seeing the world. So that we can be replenished from the inside and changed – metamorphosed – ready for the next stage in our lives.
For some of us this might be a profound change, for others maybe less so. However I do know that it is not more of the same. We are meant to grow, to mature, to adapt if we want to be fruitful. As Seth Godin says in his wonderful short e-book Graceful – it requires emotional labour. “The toll of making change is that you will be changed.”
Interestingly, he also emphasises the importance of having an abundance rather than scarcity mindset. In the context of Autumn this is rather profound. We tend to think of Autumn as only being about decay and death. But this is about laying down in order to have more. We aren’t giving up because there is not much left. We’re yielding because there is so much more to come. It’s all about the apparent contradiction of letting go in order to multiply.
Yes, but it’s still not exactly pleasant!
This is where grace comes in. What we ourselves need to receive and what we need to give to each other.
Grace has layers of meaning. Kindness, care, gentleness, thoughtfulness, connection, belonging, generosity, creativity… We know when we meet someone who is full of grace – graceful – their presence makes a profound difference to us.
Grace isn’t transactional. We can’t buy it or trade it. It’s a gift. We can receive it or reject it, but we can’t deny it. It is both bigger than us and it can have expression through us.
It’s a choice. We can receive grace at the point we need it, when we have to let go and require renewal. Grace gives us the courage to be vulnerable and bend with the Autumn wind. To let our metaphorical leaves fall to the ground.
We aren’t worthy of this grace – we could never earn it – but it’s a free gift if we will open our hands to receive. Not as a one-time present, because we ‘leak’, but as an attitude of life, cultivated over time.
Grace is inherently generous. Both for us and through us. And I know that as I stand here, today, I need it more than ever.
May you also reach for grace as you step into Autumn*.
* Whilst Autumn might be our current experience in the Northern Hemisphere, I suspect that this sense of being at a time of change might be more global. Thank you for bearing with the metaphor if you are just waking up to Spring…
You might also enjoy the poem by Dawna Markova – “I will not die an unlived life: reclaiming purpose and passion” shared by the photographer Catherine Drea in her latest post on Foxglove Lane