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Autumn Equinox: Space to change

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It’s one of those sweet September days, when the Sun remembers the warmth of Summer but the shadows are a cool reminder that change is on its way. I walk the crest of a hill and watch three buzzards circle quietly above the village I call home. Their ocassional cries, a single rich ‘Kai!’, echo across the valley, forcing me to stop and and find them in the sky, each time. Their distant shapes are surprisingly crisp against the shimmering blue. It is both magical and reassuring to realise that they are being held aloft, on their spiralling path, by the invisible strength of warm air rising up from the fading green below.

Autumn is a magical time of change and transformation, itself upheld by the invisible shifting of the season. On Equinox day, the delicate balance between light and dark is a focal point that can remind us to appreciate and acknowledge the seemingly magical combination of qualities and adaptations that allow humans and other beings to exist. Our land, our eco-systems, our communities hold one another in check as if bound with the delicate strength of spiders webs; so many of which can be seen draped across bush, fence and stone wall, not to mention the nooks and crannies of our home, at this time of year.

I love the extremes of this season: warm and cold, wet and dry, soothe my soul after the intensity of Summer. This kind of balance simply feels right. A childish joy rises up inside each time I crumble dry leaves between my fingers while my feet stomp through wet mud. These sensory contrasts bring me to life and root me in the present moment more fully than any at other time of year.

I keep leaves and other treasures I find throughout Autumn – acorns, hawberries, twisted twigs and sycamore keys – on top of a small bookcase in my living room. Once upon a time it was a formal seasonal altar, with rotating coloured cloths and an array of symbols and tools laid across it. I even held a workshop on how to create sacred spaces just like that! But over time it has changed and transformed, making space for my family, our lifestyle, my changing priorities. Now is mostly empty, with just a few, nature object I choose to display there.

a selection of autumn leaves, green, brown and yellow, stacked together on a wooden surface with small red berries at the centre

The empty space is carefully and consciously cultivated. I know it is time to refresh it when there is clutter and I can no longer see the polished wood of the bookcase. The emptiness make islands of the precious items I’ve placed; ensuring my eyes are drawn to them each in turn and allowing me to focus on them, and on what they call in for me. Sometimes a memory, an emotion, a sensory recollection. It is an active emptiness; to encourage presence, reflection, possibility and dreaming.

In the aftermath of the pandemic I, like many people I know, reverted to a fuller, busier life with more people, places, and things to take up my time and attention. At first this felt like a relief, a joyful return to connection and community. But somewhere along the way it also became a distraction, clogging up those quiet empty moments where reflection, inspiration and deep-feeling might once have occured. It can be scary to go back to emptiness when you have surrounded yourself with clutter for so long.

I wonder if trees are ever afraid to let go of their leaves when Autumn arrives? Are they ever unwilling to let go, to expose themselves to the fullness of the elements? To reveal their inner selves, bare and bold, to all eyes? Perhaps, but I trust the cyclical wisdom of their shedding, the necessity of abscission. I am looking forward to tracing their patterns across the sky and decoding some of the dreams and possibilities they write there. Until then, I will take joy and confidence in watching our tree-fellows clear out their clutter to make conscious space, in the most beautiful, fabulous way.