Monday, September 14, 2009

Finding Peace in the Autumn Garden

It is possible to see a world in a grain of sand, And a heaven in a wild flower, Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, And eternity in an hour, as William Blake suggests. We can invert the vast and concentrate on the small, though it takes effort to do so in this noisy world.

It becomes easier as days shorten and the sun's rays fall lower on the horizon: autumn in the garden is a quieter time, the time when small things come to the foreground.

There are extraordinary events taking place in your own garden right this minute. The spider's web drips with early morning dew and awaits the stumbling flight of an insect losing body heat as the days turn chilly. Chlorophyll no longer holds center stage in the chromatic scale. Where buds once formed, now there are acorns.

We expect permutations of orange, rust and maroon, veils of gold and brown in the garden in autumn. But then we come across a shock of violet, where golden-eyed asters bright as errant amethysts bob on the cooling breeze. Even more surprising is the shy and delicate pink of autumn crocus where it keeps company with brown mushrooms and fallen leaves at the base of a sturdy tree.

All is not quiet, however. The squirrel with the fat cheeks will screech the minute she stashes her hazel nuts, and the gathering crows will sound warnings to all birds preparing to migrate: the way is south and the time is now.

To paraphrase Blake, what immortal hand or eye could frame such a world as what we see before us? Hold this question in awareness as you go through your day, and hold it despite all the mounting evidence in our raucous, consumerist world that to do so is to indulge in a flight of fancy. Then, as the gentle rays of the afternoon sun fade, remember that night will come, and it will blanket you with stars that seem particularly brilliant at this time of year.

Autumn is a time of turning inward, a time of forgiveness, a time to let go of all past efforts. It presents an opportunity to rest, just the way the garden rests, before new undertakings which are soon to come at the turn of another year.

So hunker down: take care of yourself and all you hold dear.

Breathe in the deep calm of the season.

Relax as you exhale.

Photography: Aster novi-belgii, Wikipedia, public domain; Vine Maple Leaf, Nickel Eisen, 6 October 2004; Hourglass, S. Sepp, 21 October 2007

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