As we step through the gate that is the fall equinox (sept 21) it seems here at the farm this year, more than most years, everything is finishing up or starting anew all at once. I imagine this early turning is because of the very hot dry summer we just had. But nothing is just as it seems so I know in another way this turning is part of a bigger quickening, that it’s in the stars and that the Earth is speaking to us through her sometimes gentle, sometimes severe, dance. Here, in the near north of the Upper Ottawa Valley the fall equinox or Mabon, is the most transformative time of year. Depending on the moon times and how the summer goes the plants wind down for the season from now until Samhain, Oct 28. This time of year is when the medicine in plants moves down into their roots, and it is also a time for generating seeds and fruit. In these movements, our physical and cultural life hangs. And in becoming one with the spirit of this time of year there are great opportunities for enlightenment.
For those of us who live with the land it is a very bittersweet time of year. We can barely move in the farm house, for the trays and bushels of pears, tomatoes, peppers, squash, corn and beans. And we haven’t even started to harvest the bushels of potatoes, turnips, beets and carrots, that will find their way down to the cellar for the winter. We are surrounded, even bounded in by life, in this time of coming death.
I live for the green world so when I see my friends being beaten down by the frosts I feel like I’m losing my love. And at the same time there is such incredible fruition. And it happens like this every year! It also happens like this in cycle of our life. And if we’re still enough inside we can see it happens like this every second, as we are violently torn or birthed from one moment into the next. Every present moment is sacrificed to provide the ground from which the next moment grows. Fall is the time for reaping what we’ve sown and a time of sacrificial death for the promise of a future.
An equally dark mythical truth is we must keep all these vegetative beings as guests in our house while they are very much alive so we can slowly eat them and not starve during the long winter. And so we can have food in the years to come. They need to be alive until we eat it them so we can receive their vitality for our bodies. Many fruit and vegetables are also stored in various states of decay or death. Fermentation is just a suspended rotting process, and cooking a deliberate way of speeding cellular decay so that the food is digestible to us. Out of our physical needs and spiritual obligation we also save vegetables to save their children, the seeds. The seeds are kept alive until we plant them. Then they to are offered up to the Earth at the dawn of the new season. In planting them they too are being ritually sacrificed for a dream of the future.
From this beauty that is the fall there are so many incredibly profound teachings, ripe and hanging like fall apples for us to taste. The blazing of foliage, the colourful fruit and vibrant seeds, these are all telling us how we are meant to live out our days. These teachings of the fall live in the West, but come like ancient nomads, always returning to visit us this time of year. One quarter of all reality is created from the Spirit of the West. Not just yearly in the fall, but everyday in the Sun’s journey we see this path blazed at the end of the day, from the late afternoon to twilight. And we too are well housed in the west at the end of our days.
Most of us think those days are far off, but we’re fooling ourselves. Our time here is short, these ends days are just around the corner for us, or we are already there. We’re directly connected to our end days for our whole lives. Time is waiting for us, to give us back what we have sown, in our spiritual life and our physical live. This time at the end of our lives isn’t meant for retirement and relaxation, we got that all backwards. The Earth and plants demonstrate it is a time when we are meant to use our lifes accumulated resources to generate fruit and seed for our descendant’s future. This time in the cycle of our life is when we need to come to terms with endings, including the wrongs we have done or things that wrongly went undone. We need to cop to our hidden regrets and then wish them well. It is a time of full maturity, of elderhood and complete service to the good of our family and community for a future we will never see.
The poignancy of the fall, the dying of the green world and shorting of days, those first sweet smells of decaying plants and the quality of light that exists only at this time of year, can bring us to a place of beautiful surrender. In those moments the Earth, the spirit of the West is talking to us, showing and teaching us about the bigger realities that we inhabit. We just need to let ourselves go, to fall into the fall, and then to listen and watch. These physical realities of the fall are linked to our ancestral consciousness and so they are portals into a bigger picture. There’s lots of talk these days about the need to connect with our ancestral land (continent) and in that there is truth. But we are all living on this earth together and over the millennia of human existence we have moved around a great deal. The fact is, even among those we sight as indigenous to a place, there would be few if any who were the original people, endemic to a specific area. So while there is importance to what island floating around this big ball of salt water your people within memory came from, I also I think I personally feel at home where I live in part because I’m still in the Northern Hemisphere. When I’m in the tropics I don’t ever feel as at home because where I live in the north has very similar seasons as well as climactic and ecological terrain to my ancestral homes in Europe.
In contrast to the feelings of peace and slow surrender to the fall, many of us seem to be rushing around madly this time of year. In one way the busyness of fall is natural. We need to prepare for the long winter ahead. But I think the rushing is also in reaction to the embodied pathos of the fall, to the West. On the one hand we are not dying with the plants, we are planning on living through to another year. And yet there is something that is also dying within us, as the season passes. Just as it does with people we know that pass on, or with the passing of any deep relationship. In the faith that we are going to live on, and not fear “the fall”, there is a way to work hard but feel peaceful knowing we are stockpiling for our people’s future. Both realities can exist hand in hand.
I think there is a stronger need now then ever for us to produce ‘fruit’ and ‘vital seeds’ with our lives. Or if you feel you are not at that stage yet then to start prepare for that day with full knowledge of it’s immense. The trees are loaded this year with nuts and cones. When I see this it makes me a little worried because trees generate huge amounts of seed in response to stress. Trees sense the future. And they pull on past resources they’ve built up to jump into a distant future with their seeds. So, the trees know hard times are coming, and that they may likely die, so they produce more seed for a future when a more hospitable climate will come. The trees work with the Earth’s bigger cycles. Now think about this with our present world situation. We are just like trees, or we should be. We are not meant to become more greedy during times of change and scarcity because that does not serve the future. If our ancestors had acted that way we would not be here now. We are meant to generate seed to feed our dependants in the future. Seed for humans doesn’t just mean more children, or more stuff, it means more co-creation with the earth and within our culture. Co-creations like polyculture gardens that feed not just us but the land and those other being living around it. It’s through these co-creative tendrils we may find a way around the walls we’ve made, a way through to a brighter future.