It’s October 1st. The Autumnal Equinox has come and gone and the northern world turns toward its slumber and rest, preparing for the next cycle of renewal. The produce stands turn from peaches to apples, the days grow shorter, the leaves begin to shed their chlorophyll and reveal their colorful selves. Trader Joes begins its Pumpkin Assault and few foods are left un-pumpkinned— cookies, crackers, cereals, breads, chips, dips, sauces, spices, drinks, coffee, all is fair game. My wife pulled out the Halloween costumes from the basement and modeled them for our grandchildren in Oregon over Skype.
Even though San Francisco is low on deciduous trees and it has been a long time since I’ve had to rake leaves and jump in the pile, October remains one of my favorite months. I cozy in with my annual Dickens novel, inhale great gulps of that Fall smell in the air and that slight chill, start thinking about hearty soups to make and love the overflow of vegetables at the Farmer’s Market.
I pull out the old Incredible String Band album with October Song, with its poignant imagery of seasonal turning and the “falling leaves that jewel the ground that know the art of dying.”
And maybe that’s what October has been singing to me forever. That we all are bound by our own mortality and the thought of not crunching into a fresh apple again or playing Bach’s Partita or reading a story to our grandchildren or hiking the hills of Marin is a sobering and sorrowful thought. But if we practice the art of dying while we’re living, align ourselves with the cycles of leaf turn and leaf fall and bare branches and new buds and green leaf, we might eventually understand that we need not be afraid. We are perpetually changing and dying and perpetually being re-born in small and big ways and the Big D is just one more turn of the cycle.
So October is here to remind us of the beauty that partners with the wistful song of impermanence, to help us practice that turn to Winter without abandoning hope of Spring, to help us remember to cherish each moment of our time here and turn to the love and comfort of the family, the friends, the hearth and the home. Off to the side of this autumn scene above (from my calendar page and most definitely, not San Francisco!), the humans are bickering and fighting and desperately trying to hold on to their unearned pockets of privilege, but the trees know better and are there to let us know if we would but stop and listen.
Happy October to all!