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Late October by Maya Angelou

the leaves of autumn
sprinkle down the tinny
sound of little dyings
and skies sated
of ruddy sunsets
of roseate dawns
roil ceaselessly in
cobweb greys and turn
to black
for comfort.
Only lovers
see the fall
a signal end to endings
a gruffish gesture alerting
those who will not be alarmed
that we begin to stop
in order simply
to begin

Photo by Simon Howden

“…it seems that for most of us our paths are, in part, a way of reclaiming the degree of communion that our ancestors once had…”

Clive, PF Member

I’ve been thinking about this statement for a bit now…and I think that it speaks to something common to many traditions.  For myself, it means examining the wisdom (as well as the folly) of past and current peoples–both their ideas and traditions for the elements that make the most sense for my place and my time, in a way that honors their developments and discoveries. Sometimes that means leaving them to the people that created them, and sometimes it means creating new traditions.  At the heart of my practice though, is learning the lessons of the here and now–of listening to the ecosystem that I are a part of, physically and spiritually.  In a post on grounding, and the differences between location and season (especially noticeable at this time of year), blogger Hecate Demeter expresses this sentiment (as part of a longer statement) in a way that I quite admire and agree with: “to be a Witch is to be in deep relationship with your own landbase, your own watershed, your own foodshed”.

I have always lived at a latitude and altitude where mid to late October is the commencement of autumn…  Here, where the Chesapeake Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean, is no different.  For me, Samhain has always been a celebration of fall–falling leaves and falling temperatures, time to air out the winter coats and enjoy the last lush days of crisp breezes and crunching leaves.  It is the time when “the leaves of autumn sprinkle down the tinny sound of little dyings and skies sated of ruddy sunsets of roseate dawns roil ceaselessly” and when the crabs stop biting and start thinking about finding there own place to settle down in the muddy bottom of the bay.

Autumn is the time to complete the harvest of the year, to take stock of things and finally, to rest.  “A signal to end endings…that we begin to stop in order simple to begin again.”  This is the season of returning to our center, spinning back to our core and beginning the journey of reassessment, a chance to catch our breaths and to take stock of ourselves and our lives.  This is the season to make plans, to let our dreams and imagination boil and bubble while we remain outwardly still. This is the season to be receptive to the stillness of a slumbering earth, without the distraction of the wide, bright world of growing things as we return our attention to the roots, that anchor and sustain us, grounding us in this world and the next.

The Last Harvest teaches us that all things are sacred, are hallow’d–even endings.  Samhain, in our family, the time when we reflect on our blessings (including that of our lives and each other) and to give thanks for those that make it possible (including those persons dear to us that have already passed from life).  It is our time to mark the changing of the seasons, and to celebrate (as Chickadee would say) the solar “Wise Old Man” (we read a book about Lao Tzu today, and she thought that he looked like a good candidate for the role) who will soon become the “Baby Sun King” at Yule.  And in doing so, we partake in the greater communion of the world around us, reclaiming it as our own.