Thoughts on Where We Are…Autumn

Thoughts on Where We Are...Autumn

Autumn is approaching…with winds and light rains, leaves beginning to fall, crops being harvested, trees becoming barren. Ah, the cycle. These weather patterns contrast with the drought and dryness in other parts of America and the world.  What does nature know that we do not about the length of our days? Why do some regions have bounty and others experience loss? Is there something we need to atone for?

Probably. But though despite the shadow fo global warming, I’m determined to enjoy autumn once again. I have a large planter of yellow and burnt ocher mums nestling by pumpkins on my front porch. My autumn welcome sign is hung and a wreath of yellow leaves blazes in in my living room. This is my time. For me autumn is always a beginning.


When things fall back toward the earth, the outlines of garden and lawn, of walkway and road become more apparent. This precise definition creates a sense of order and organization. In fall there are memories of wild vines and riotous summer flower color. But now it’s best to be more satisfied with quieter denser things like clipped boxwood and evergreens, like bare tree trunks of grey and soft brown. The air is cool. The skies seem swept up too, presenting swathes of crystal color. Cold air outlines things so definitely, you can almost see each leaf and branch.


Definition and order soothes the soul. I lean toward putting things away in their proper place. I lean toward knowing that everything sleeps quietly waiting for a reawakening. This is a time to store energy, to store knowledge. It can be a time to read great books and contemplate, make decisions.

If you seek solace and quiet, this is your time. For as we move inside to do our living, placing things we love like a bright pumpkin or a sheaf of leaves on table surfaces, or brightening a room with a flowered pillow or candlelight, it can also become a time to move inward in our thinking–to meditate and determine more and more exactly who we are.

Autumn decorations can remind us of endings, yet good endings that are resolute and leave us feeling blessed, not sorrowful. Autumn is the time of atonement for the Jewish people and how appropriate to tidy up one’s soul as the earth is preparing for sleep and hibernation, as winter winds are soon to come and humans are stocking up on food energy and light energy, hoping they will provide the ability to survive.


But no matter what the season, we should atone for the hurts we have caused; we should try to mediate our expressions of anger. And certainly if we have hurt someone we need to ask for forgiveness, hoping that if someone has hurt us, we can find a way to forgive that person, lighten the loads we often carry. And of course, we must try to forgive ourselves.


It’s a little early, but there will come a time as the days get shorter that we will want to settle back into our brains and examine who we are, where we are going, and how we might improve. Life cannot be lived like the riot of spring where nature blows her wad and lets everything grow and rush about. We enjoyed that fertility. But now it’s time to be more judicious in our use of harvest fruits; we need to carefully use and share our bounty.

Certainly in the spring, when life comes back, we have no fears of the future. But in the autumn, we need to count the jars in the cellar, the apples in the basket, the sins on the soul. We need to tidy our lives and draw within to discover how we will survive, how we will make it through the dark times of our life. And how we can help others through their darker, harder times.


In each of us is a light deep within. Sharing that light draws bounty, brings good things to us whether the world is hard-packed snow or dry desert. Autumn can provide a time for atonement. Winter and beyond can be full of the light of love as the grace of forgiving someone brings the warmth of reclaiming love. If you are feeling like all the days of your life are hard, cold winter, then it’s time to open up to those around you, to share the light within you. IT WILL BRING YOU HAPPINESS. As a wise woman once said to me: “Feeling sad today? Then go out and help someone else.” She was so right.

(this is a rewriting of an older post, but it always feels just right…)

I Celebrate Autumn, Halloween & Beggars Night

Getting read for Beggar’s Night

My son lives in the Midwest, and said this past week that he could smell autumn in the air. He also reminded me that autumn is his favorite time of year. MINE TOO. And I immediately felt nostalgic.

Because at this moment I’m a woman of few seasons, I’m in California. And though all parts of our beautiful country have seasons, some are more theatrical than others—and certainly living in the Midwest or the Northeast provides one with amazing drama. But this is not a post about global warming, though because of climate change the drama that our seasons present does often endanger people.

No, this is a post about enjoying seasonal change, of focusing on how autumn or if you prefer, fall—should be honored as a time of beauty, of subtle miracles, and of a call to all peoples to embrace one another.


Autumn encourages a settling in. Its chillier weather alerts us to our surroundings. Those who obey the law of spring cleaning—the open window thing—must acknowledge that autumn makes us turn inward. With windows closed, we can still tidy and organize, find that the comfort of indoors means more to us now. Our time inside is increasing.

And how delightful that Mother Nature imbued her trees and shrubs with fiery color during this season. Because we have learned to take those same warm hues of orange, yellow, ocher, and gold and bring them into our homes. We symbolically pull light and fire into our living spaces at a time when the earth is spinning away from the warmth of the sun. We need that warmth. We claim it once again with the pumpkins on our porches or kitchen tables, the colorful shawl, pillow or blanket in our living rooms. It’s like we’re lighting a fire that will burn safely in our homes, even after the sun goes down.


And no matter who we are or where we live, autumn increases the warmth between us, encourages us to join together. The turning inward flows in our blood streams, is part of our DNA. We remember an ancestral need for family and friends, for other warm bodies. We harken back to those who built fires, stayed in caves, built huts or teepees—all part of seeking the warmth of indoors, of others gathered close.

It’s a lovely co-incidence that our American forefathers and mothers celebrated Thanksgiving just when the sun was departing and the winds were blowing cold. It’s again a lovely coincidence that within the Gregorian calendar sits the special day of All Saints, from which came the concept of dressing up to honor a saint or to scare away the ghost of that saint and then later evolved, becoming the eve of all hallows or Halloween. The 31st of October.

Well, for my family, Halloween was the 31st of October, until we moved to Des Moines, Iowa. What a surprise when our son came home from school to tell us that now we would be celebrating Halloween on the 30th.


The current editor of the well-known magazine BETTER HOMES & GARDENS wrote recently about his move to Des Moines four years ago. Like us, Stephen Orr was surprised when he learned that Halloween had a new name and was celebrated on the 30th of October. Orr writes:

there are many special things about my new community, one of my favorites is the charmingly idiosyncratic way Iowa’s capital city celebrates Halloween. We don’t. In the late 1930’s Kathryn Krieg, recreation director for the city’s playgrounds, came up with a novel idea to discourage the recent outbreak of petty vandalism. By replacing Halloween with a holiday that occurs one day earlier (on October 30th) Krieg hoped to decrease the destructive behavior that had grown up around the holiday by substituting something more manageable—bad jokes. By the 40s, the holiday known as Beggar’s Night had become widespread, with school leaders and the local media helping establish the tradition. …From a 1948 article, here are the rules: “The kids will tell a joke, sing a song, recite, dance or ask a riddle. In return, they’ll want a stab at a cookie jar, ice cream tray or candy box.” 

Orr then writes about how he has come to enjoy this “different” version of Halloween.

When we were living there, we loved it too. The children would come up our front walk, already knowing what riddle or joke they were going to tell—and I was always at the door, ready with my treats.

“Why did the skeleton NOT cross the road? Because he didn’t have the guts.”

“Why can’t you hear a pterodactyl go to the bathroom? Because the P is silent.”

Orr writes and I’ve been a witness, that sometimes the younger children balk at having to earn their treat and yes—there have been tears on my front porch. But as Orr concludes in his piece:

Even so learning a bunch of 8-year-olds’ corny punch lines and witnessing a vintage slice of Americana that welcomes families from all walks of life are the only treats I need this Halloween.

Thanks, Stephen Orr—you too bring warmth into a time when the days are colder, darker and shorter!   HAPPY FALL, HAPPY AUTUMN, HAPPY HALLOWEEN –Everyone!

Photo: My front porch, ready for Beggar’s Night