November 9, 2013

Thoughts for Autumn

This past week, autumn swept in with a vengeance.

I've always thought autumn has had a very dualistic personality; it travels between the extremes of soft and harsh. In September, the weather has a hint of chill- enough to pull out the sweaters and begin our now metaphorical gathering of foods to store. Soups become appetizing, apples need to be picked, squash and pumpkin fill the supermarkets, leaves change their colors.

But by late October or early November, the weather breaks. The chill transformers to a cold that leaves lips numb and- if you live up north with extreme seasons- it means reaching for that second layer of clothing. I think, temperature wise, it happens when the thermometer drops to the forties during the day.  The leaves are gone from the trees, the earth has stopped producing and the long cold nights of winter are clearly ahead.

When people say their favorite season is autumn, I doubt they mean this half.

In Chinese Medicine, the season of autumn is related to the element of metal. Metal is a hard element to understand. In the organ system, it relates to the Lung and Large Intestine. Emotionally, it corresponds to grief. In the cycle of our lives, it corresponds to old age and, eventually death.

The image I have been meditating on is metal corresponding to The Knife. A knife cuts away unnecessary things. It parrs the fat, rids us of the waste. In our hectic world where we define ourselves by what we do, I think it is easy to overload our schedule and lives with things that are not useful or are no longer useful.

It is hard to say no and to bring things to an end. There are fears of disappointing people, of burning bridges, of closing doors. But we are not beings of infinite energy- no matter what the advertising might say- and doors must close. Especially as winter comes and the cold sets in.

Winter is a dark, cold time and our natural energy ebbs during those months. Not that you would be able to tell by the constant schedules we keep. It is a time of endurance, of rest, of letting our energy collect for spring and new growth. Autumn is the time to cut back on our energy expenditures and prepare for the lesser energy.

This autumn I have been trying to do just that. There was an impulse upon returning to school to fill every bit of my schedule with new activities to meet new people, do new things, not be left to my own. But I sat with that impulse until it disappeared and have been very cautious about adding new responsibilities to my life or making demands on my time: job searching, meeting new people, living a full schedule.  The only things I keep to are my school work and my writing (though obviously not blog writing).

It is damned hard to live a simple life. I used to scoff at monks or people who lived in incredible simplicity until I learned just how hard it is to say no to things and remain interested and focused on the task at hand. It takes immense will power to continually look for the new and exciting in what you already have rather than to get your thrills from external novelties.  We have forgotten how to do that as a culture.

There are certainly essays that I wish to write and this blog is not dying by any means. But it will pass into a quieter state of hibernation as I conserve my energy for winter.

What do you do to conserve your energy? Do you notice changes of energy in the shift of the seasons?


  1. I definitely feel the seasons change. Seasonal affective disorder and all. I light more candles more often as the nights get longer. I generally try to find myself a nice, long, brain consuming project to get me through. This winter is demonology. I spent the first half of my life in St. Louis, MO. We all eventually drive by where "The Exorcist Hospital" was, the parish the two priests lived, and someone knows someone who met someone involved in the story: someone's aunt was a nurse or attended mass at the parish or whatever. :) I've just never taken the time until now.

    I also make a little time for tea during the winter particularly. Something soft. This week's choice is Vanilla Carmel.

  2. The changing of the seasons don't affect me very much. This time of year is a bit depressing, but more because of the lack of beauty in the nature around me rather than the darkening of the days. When snow comes I'm right as rain (or rather "right as snow" as I have never been very fond of rain) again! The almost continous darkness of midwinter enchants me just as much as the ever light midsummers! I'm so happy that I live in a place with such extreme seasons!

    I think I am rather good at living the simple life. I am very fond of status quo and prefer finding joy in the small things rather than chase after change.