I loved autumn when I was small. It was all the colours, the crisp smoky air, and the thrill of being out in the dark on Bonfire Night and Halloween. Like many people though, I lost the excitement as I grew older. Autumn became a time of shrinking down, bringing tiredness in the bones and struggles with the loss of light.
This autumn feels different. I’ve been deepening my connection with nature through the Wheel of the Year. This is the cycle of eight Celtic festivals, starting with Samhain (Halloween) and turning through the Winter Solstice, Imbolc, Spring Equinox, Beltane, Summer Solstice, Lammas, and the Autumn Equinox. The festivals are bound up the natural world and the energies of each period. The changes are going to happen whether we want them to or not. Why resist? Better to go with the seasonal flow.
September 22nd saw the Autumn Equinox, signaling the time when deciduous trees start to shed. This prepares them for winter by preserving the moisture so they don’t dry out and die. As they settle into dormancy, they need less energy to stay alive. Leafless branches are also better able to withstand winter storms.
It’s encouraged me to think about shedding. How might I let go like trees? Not just letting go of what doesn’t serve me anymore but what might harm me if I hang on.
I’m struck by how natural the process is in trees. I’m often impatient to be rid of what I don’t want, making effort to shake it off, but trees don’t force the process. They draw in rather than push out. It may seem counter-intuitive but perhaps we need to move into stillness to truly let go. This allows the energy to go into new growth while our old foliage gently withers and falls away.
Trees give their leaves back to the earth. We often talk about letting go without asking the question, ‘Where to?’ Perhaps it’s giving back to the earth of ourselves. Whatever we let go of - whether it’s sadness, anger, or regret – it’s neither good nor bad in the cycle of life and, like leaves falling beneath a tree, has the potential to become compost, nourishing us at a future time.
Energy doesn’t die; it transforms. In that sense, the autumn leaves aren’t dying, they’re returning – or, within the Wheel of the Year, re-turning.
I was inspired to write this blog following an activity on the theme of shedding with The Way of The Buzzard. Nicola Smalley writes about the Wheel of the Year in Flowing with the Seasons. If you scroll down to the Useful Links, you can get a free ‘Working With The Wheel of the Year’ guide.
By Ali Davenport