Thursday is the autumnal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. Here in north central Wisconsin, fall officially arrived at 8:03 pm Thursday. Fall weather arrived a bit earlier, coming in on Wednesday morning after a storm passed through overnight Tuesday. The cooler temperatures and lower humidity were welcomed by those of us who are challenged by the hot, humid summer days and nights.
Of course, signs of the approaching equinox have been evident for weeks, and in one case, months. The trees have started to change from their verdant summer dress to shades of yellow, orange and red. Vegetable production has slowed, and plants are starting to brown. Some flowers, too, are starting to brown and lose their flowers to seed. The hummingbirds are fewer and less active each day. Daylight hours have been shrinking since late June, and with the equinox daylight and darkness have reached the half-way point. Each day moving forward, the darkness will grow and daylight will fade until nearly Christmas.
Yet all these apparent “losses” hold lessons for us, lessons of hope and lessons of trust in the nature of things. Someone once said, “Autumn shows us how beautiful it is to let things go.” Anyone who has lived in this area for more than a year knows that this passing of summer is just part of the cycles of life, a necessary part. The seeds shed now will sprout new plants come spring. The fallen leaves replenish the soil that will nourish the trees for the next growing season. By releasing the leaves, the trees are able to conserve their energy through the coming winter and the branches prepare themselves for new buds next spring. The darkness fosters a fallow time for the earth, a time to rest and recover.
This natural cycle also reminds us of some truths we might sometimes forget. “Autumn shows us how beautiful it is to let things go.” We need to remember that loss is a natural part of life, but loss is not the end of the story. We must recognize that it is not possible or healthy to always be striving to grow and produce. We, too, need to let some things go in order to conserve our energy and prepare for new growth. We need fallow time to rest and recover, to “replenish our soil” after expending energy producing all those things we need to survive. We do not need to wait for the fall equinox to care for ourselves in this way; in fact, it is often better if we assess our needs regularly and build opportunities for fallow time into our daily, weekly and monthly routines.
For the blessings of autumn, for the beauty of the season and for the lessons we can learn, we say Deo Gratias!