Autumn is here, even in dry northern California. Today as I meditated, I had a strong sense of “return,” of “return” to autumn in the place I came from, Wisconsin. I allowed myself to fall into the nostalgia of the desire to return, and I allowed myself to feel the sad/beautiful/longing of that time when your heart is torn apart by the beauty of the moment. In a climate with cold winters, the coming of autumn carries with it a longing for what is past and a heralding of what is about to be. These last red and yellow and brown days of autumn give way to a long, cold, dark winter. Autumn here, in dry northern California, carries a longing also, although the hope here is for rain.
When I was young, life was not good unless it was full. Full then meant a calendar with dates and meetings and parties and meals out with good friends. Full meant a relationship – whether or not that relationship was fulfilling. Full often meant lots of drama, “lots going on,” on all levels.
In my working years, I noticed that when colleagues gathered at meetings, as old friends and colleagues met again, hugged awkwardly and briefly, and reconnected, conversation turned quickly to how busy we all were. Conversations were lists of the meaningful and even burdensome schedules we carried. Sometimes there was mention of not having had a day off in weeks. Work was not good unless it was full, full calendars, full of meaning, full of emotion, fullness that somehow proved our worth.
Now that autumn is here in my own life, I’ve come to see these things differently. I don’t like “full” as much! I like one or two things in my day. I like to have a cup of coffee with milk in the morning. I like to take the time to think about what I’ll be doing on this particular day. I like to consider whether or not what I have chosen to do may or may not be what I do. I like to take a few moments to be grateful, no matter whether my emotions are up or down that day.
Now that autumn has arrived in my life, I find that “full” means the fullness of time. This moment is the fulness of time. Autumn is as lovely as spring. This moment is as important as the next. Sometimes I’m present for the moment, and sometimes I’m not. When I can be, I am present.
I’d like to give this gift to those who are younger, this gratitude for being able to notice the passing of the seasons. I’d like to tell them not to miss the light in the trees as the sun goes down over the Pacific. I’d like to say “be grateful” without it sounding like a command. I’d like to say “be grateful” because I know the gift will be yours if you have a moment to be grateful.
But that’s not what it is to be young. There are too many things to fill the days, too many important – and they are important! – meetings and dates and outings and activities.
Now that autumn is here, I am grateful to watch the passing of the seasons through the branches of the birch tree outside my front window.