So we return once more to fall, the season many claim as favorite for its bright, crisp days, “'cooler nights good for sleeping,” as my mother used to say, abundant farmers' markets (fresh apples—truly a gift from God!) and riots of coloring leaves.
But there is also a note of melancholy as we leave behind summer ease and fun, isn't there? Those bright leaves fall. The air changes from crisp to cold, and we move from sweaters to parkas.
This mix of delight and loss offers us a spiritual invitation. How might we engage the gifts of the season with gratitude and still hold them lightly? Here are three suggestions:
Gratitude. To be honest, I have sometimes resisted the idea of listing the things I'm grateful for. The “put on a happy face” mentality has led to a world of harm and spiritual disconnection in my opinion. But the practice of turning our thoughts to what we are thankful for helps draw us out of ourselves and we become more aware that God is ever-present even in times of struggle. I like to use a routine habit to remind me to pause and say thanks—every time I refill my water bottle. What would remind you? When you walk through the door at home? Tuck under the covers before sleep? Pour coffee in the morning? You get the idea.
Take time with nature. St. Ignatius of Loyola believed that God dwells in all creatures. “In the elements, giving them existence, in the plants, giving them growth, in the animals, conferring on them sensation, in humans, giving them understanding.” This fall, take a walk in the woods or spend some time sitting on your patio. Let your senses and imagination become absorbed with some element of creation; perhaps the play of shadow and light as clouds move across the sky or the movements of birds at your feeder. Maybe you are a tree-lover—spend some time with a particular favorite. What does the spirit bring to your attention? What might God's good creation have to say to you? Rest in the quiet and explore. When you are ready, close with these comforting words from Theresa of Avila: “Let nothing disturb you, nothing frighten you, all things are passing, God alone is unchanging.”
Meditate with music. There are many lovely popular songs and hymns about fall. Spend a little time finding a couple that speak to you; it's a pleasant chore! When you have what you need, settle yourself in quiet somewhere you won't be disturbed. In front of a window is one choice or maybe you prefer to listen with eyes closed. Either way, let the words and melody speak to your spirit. What images are evoked? What might you want to bring to the conversation with God? One of my favorites is Leaves Don't Drop (They Just Let Go), by Carrie Newcomer. www.youtube.com/watch/leavesdontdrop.
Where will you experience the Spirit this fall? Please share your ideas.