The Shapes of Autumn

Smoky Mountains

The Shapes of Autumn

Waking up on a misty Autumn Sunday,  calm and silence out there, after the night of fires (Bonfire Night, fireworks, crowds of people, each engaging with their own yearly rituals).

This feels a gift of a morning.

I am fortunate enough to live right by the hills of the English West Yorkshire Pennines, at this time a generous glow of orange, gold and red and countless shades of brown, bright green moss wrapped softly onto the rocks along the river and in the woodland’s undergrowth, looking like mythical creatures, at home here, amongst the huge trees and the squirrels.

Nature dying beautifully, going to rest, stocking up for Winter, nestling away, drawing in, letting go…

There has been grief, this year, for people close to me, difficult anniversaries for some and this time of year is a reminder for many, of the impermanence of things, when self-renewing, life-preserving cycles, also part of it, feel far and out of sight.

I too – as I write – am engaging in my share of remembering, honouring, letting go.


Smoky MountainsI think of the many ways in which, frightened by the power of grief – by the unbearable realization of loss – we often seek relief in rushing, sheltering ourselves, into the next new thing, a new relationship or the thought of one, a new project, the next house, some more shopping, something, somebody else to lose ourselves in, to lose the pain of ‘being with’ the knowledge of loss, with the unthinkable absence.

Yet, somehow, this seems to keep the grief locked in, immobilized in time, frozen, unable to flow and breathe, or transform, do what it needs to do, while all along we keep running on, carrying this lump, only for it to return to us at the next falling of leaves, the next stop. We keep ‘moving on’, never quite moving ‘through’ and ‘out’.

I think of the ‘silent‘, unconscious ‘pacts‘ we might have made with ourselves, a long time ago, often – but not only – very early in life,  so that we would never have to feel that way again (scared, abandoned, betrayed, heart-broken, ashamed…).

These ‘pacts’ will have kept us safe then, for a time – even a long time – only to become set ‘shapes’, prisons, rigidly leading our choices. We may choose relationships with unavailable people, or draw obstacles in the way of available ones; we may take up, or maintain, unfulfilling jobs; we may stay in under-nourishing, desempowering environments, sabotage our health and perpetuate all sorts of destructive self-deprivation, or inflict them onto others! All or some of this we may do  so that we never have to risk again being ‘intimately close’, being ‘fully known’, or fully ‘visible’ and therefore (as this happened THEN) being ‘abandoned’, ‘rejected’, ‘shamed’.

We wonder why the same things keep happening to us, the same difficulties repeat, and all the while we have forgotten our old safety pacts, our promises to ourselves, the life ‘myths’ we have scripted out and carefully and faithfully executed, understandably so.

Meantime, those myths have taken away our ability to recognize ‘safety’ in other forms – having set ourselves on this one shape as a cure for all pain, making those forms that remind us of our old threats, seem altogether dangerous, all flickers announcing frightening dragons.

We blocked the possibilities for nourishment that come from letting life in, in its fullness.


Magic CraggsI think of what may happen if we stop, if – instead of latching on to vessels to take us ‘away’ from it – we looked for something, somebody to ‘hold us’ while we ‘breathe through’ the grief, ‘feel’ it, so that goodbyes can be fully said, the meaning of these fully known, the loss fully embraced, the gifts and transformation fully possible.

I then think of what may open up if we are released from warding off our deeply felt knowledge of what could not be, could not stay or become; if the energy tied up around this is freed again to find and discover the other shapes of the creation of life still possible.

Rituals can be such holding vessels, or a therapeutic, healing space, a good, friendly, accepting presence or a grounding place that feels soothing and containing. So that we can see, learn, discriminate, embrace life again, enriched, wholesome, fully nourished.

Humankind has used these throughout the whole of our known history.

Not easy, but possibly SIMPLE.

Isn’t this what Nature does after all, every year, all the time, and each time embraces it all again…



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