AUTUMN – learning to work from the inside

AUTUMN – learning to work from the inside

October 22nd, 2012 (No Comments)

Living in Pennsylvania offers me the precious gift of four clearly defined seasons, as well as countless days of shoulder season moments like today. Brilliantly colored leaves twirl, then float to the variegated carpet below. Summer abundance still dances in the balmy 70 degree weather, even though frost already nipped the elephant ears and banana fronds, and weeks ago we hauled all the tender containers indoors.

Fall is a curious time for gardeners. Yesterday an observant friend asked me how I felt while chopping back the unruly growth. I replied that it feels good to clean it all up, but it is an exhausting and emotionally unnerving time. This is an overloaded season of activity, when making lists only exacerbates the reality of all there is to do. Traffic increases on the highways of our neighborhoods and the highways of our minds. The summer hammock hangs empty beneath the Kentucky coffee-bean tree; it is on my mental list to bring inside.

How do you deal with the ever-increasing tasks of autumn that have been coming your way?

How are you managing our stressful cultural pattern that ramps up the pace of work and social life? How are you feeling about those dates you are already putting on your 2013 calendar?

Have you stopped and relished those aspen or maple trees in full bloom?

I find it particularly paradoxical that – after writing and publishing my novelThe Retreat,” (which tells the story of a group of ordinary people who slow down and pay attention to their lives for a weekend) – my life has suddenly been turned on its head.  I am flying here and there for conferences, retreats, for book promotions to Toronto and Kitchener, planning trips to the West Coast, and deep in discernment for a new retreat series starting in Pendle Hill in a few weeks. Then there are holiday plans and next year’s work plans – phew! It sure was much less complicated to sit and write quietly for all those months.

Maybe you too have recognized that if you pour your heart and life into good work, it eventually produces even more good work? This is the harvest principle we all love to talk about, but in reality can also become the very thing that plugs up our creative soul and turns us into free-wheeling monster machines that need bigger and better barns to store all of our life’s produce.  How do we turn toward peaceful simplicity in the time of harvest? Is the only answer to get on board, and “just do it?”

This morning I am reminded that this season, more than any other, both calls me to more work and to the necessity to slow down and pay attention more acutely. My human nature finds this conscious awareness difficult. Today I see the leaves letting go of their need to expand and shine, I hear the mice running inside the walls of this old house; they know when and how to come indoors and prepare for hibernation. Our dear canine is growing her winter coat, fattening up as if she still has wild-dog genes.

Maybe those of us growing older recognize more clearly the pull to come inside when we feel the chill of cold winds outside, but still this seems to be the counter-cultural decision that is the road less traveled by our society. We value our productivity instead of our deep pleasure. We run harder on the earth instead of rooting ourselves profoundly in our sense of place. We plow ahead roughshod over relationships, rather than carefully collecting the seeds and shoots that call to be protected as nourishing wisdom for the leaner months ahead.

This October Monday morning, after walking the fire-pit circle outdoors while sipping hot coffee and enjoying toast and home preserves from dear daughter-in-law Christine, I knew it was time to honor my soul and remind myself of what really does make meaning. I know that these minutes of reflective writing – even while my email list piles up – have offered a new depth, a strength of purpose and a clearer direction to my day. It would make me happy to know if this has offered you a few moments of reflection too -blog writing is such a curious kind of experience!

Fall surely is the time to burrow inside, while still attending to all the busyness outside. Our bodies urge us forward to the heavy lifting work of these days, while our souls keep silently fattening up for the long winter days ahead. What deep gladness autumn brings.

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