Mid Autumn Reflection by my friend Gill Henwood who took the photos.
Brambles along the ridge track, Grizedale Forest, are aflame in the pyrrhic victory of autumnal mid-November.
I’m reflecting along the way about glory in the natural world as leaves fulfil their task of nurturing the trees for this season, of sheltering wildlife and shading the forest floor. Trees and their undergrowth are gradually withdrawing their summer lush greens, through autumn russets to the stark beauty of their varied branches.
The brambles arch and scramble below, creating spiny sanctuaries for creatures to nestle down out of danger. Birds and mice have mostly taken the blackberries and carried their seeds further along the forest edges and field hedgerows.
Creation is readying for the burst of life starting after midwinter in only a few weeks’ time. Primroses are flowering already in sunny spots, unseasonally warmed. Bulbs are waiting, biding their time, just below the leaf litter.
Advent is not far from us – our time to get ready, to prepare for the explosion of new life into the world at Christmas, the coming of the Christ Child as the new era dawns and continues…
Stir up, O Lord, the wills of your faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may by you beplenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Autumn leaves falling as nature’s confetti, photographed by Gill Henwood. As the year turns with the adjusting of our time clocks, Gill reflects.
Confetti, as the clocks go back
Scarlet startled me on the step, Stopped me in my hurried tracks to shelter from the rain storm. Summer green hid below the exposed upper canopy of spreading layers still warm, still calm, still lush.
Flames ripped along leaves clinging to the fine slender branches, Autumn fires engulfed the dancers spangling gold, orange, vermilion Overwhelming viridian vigour. Ruby shining leaves fell in their final whirl to carpet the cold slate steps. Clear water washing them away sprinkled with rose petals
A christening of confetti For their grave. Yet… Resurrection will come with the snowdrops.
Sometimes it feels like our world is simply falling apart, or to be truthful, humanity is proving to be a big threat to the earth God made and of which we are supposedly stewards. Ukraine, for example, is where the demonic, in the shape of Mr Putin, is threatening to destroy a land which doesn’t belong to him and a people who, for the most part are innocent. There is little that most of us can do about that. Some of us feel powerless to change things for the better. Meanwhile, we in England are spectators to a different kind of power struggle which is, nevertheless, upsetting. Our ruling party in Parliament is engaged in what can be described as in-fighting, warfare, and a pitiful attacking of each other. What they are not doing, it seems, is actually governing. It has been going on for months and there is no clear end in sight. Meanwhile many of us feel powerless at the futility of it all.
So, I was pleased that my friend Heather sent me the above photo of an autumn scene in North Ayrshire. It gave me a different perspective. I was reminded that there is a different view of the world, and creation provides it. Whilst there is much to do and hearts and minds to change about the care of creation, the world continues to move through the seasons showing us beauty and freshness and hopefully joy. Autumn is such a definite season of both dying and rebirth. As the autumn coloured leaves drop silently to the ground, they leave behind a space for new buds to form and new life to burst forth in due season. Some in the animal kingdom hibernate or slow their pace at this time of year. Would that humanity might imitate! We might do less damage!
All of us are looking expectantly towards the movement of Autumn into the Christmas light of the Christ-Child, once again illuminating darkness – Diwali for the Hindu people on Monday, Hanukkah for the Jewish people in December, (Eid – Al-Hada for Muslims at a variable time). Light penetrates darkness and reminds us of our dependence on the Sun. Also, perhaps, we may re-discover the importance of the delicate balance of the Cosmos as well as of our own Planet.
Seasons are good moments to repent – to turn away from all the things we are doing wrong to Creation, the world of Nature and to ourselves. A time to turn back to God and look forward to better things; to do better; to be better people. A time to try to be more Godly and to remind ourselves that all life is gift and that we are given, also, a planet to care for, including each other, and therefore we are on God’s Holy Ground.
I came across this prayer recently and I share it with you. It deserves to be prayed with joyful repentance.
Loving God, We praise you for the miracle of life and growth: for the smell of flowers, fresh vegetables and an autumn morning, for the taste of crunchy apples and warm porridge, for the sound of running streams, Mozart and a school playground, for the feel of warm soup, smooth velvet and loving arms.
Particularly, today, we thank you for trees: for the beauty of their shape and form, for the freshness and life they bring to our streets, for their essential contribution to the cycle of nature.
Loving God, forgive us: when we don’t notice this wonderful world in which we live, when we don’t think about the impact of some of the things we do, when we deliberately contribute to the destruction of your world. Let us remember; that the ground we stand upon is holy ground let us keep it, guard it, care for it, for it keeps us, guards us, cares for us.
Those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere began the season of Autumn at the end of last week. The day is known as the Autumn ‘equinox’ or, more technically, the ‘astronomical equinox’
‘Equinox’ is the day when daylight and darktime hours are equal. This happens twice a year in Spring and Autumn. The word ‘equinox’ comes from two Latin words, aequus which means, equal and nox which means night.
The initial effect is that we notice the nights are darker for longer and there is generally a drop in temperature. Nature begins to adjust accordingly. Many birds migrate whilst other birds arrive to over-winter. Many animals hibernate (just as, in this season and, in winter many of us would like to do so also!) Biologically the pace of life slows. For some it isn’t a happy season but for others it has a magic of its own.
The countryside, forests, woods and parkland areas of towns are ablaze with colour as the leaves of the trees put on their autumn garb. They are stunning signs of summer’s end and the onset of winter as the trees become skeletal. Not everyone enjoys this time of year. Those beautiful leaves, golden, red and bronze are fluttering to their death.
A poem, I was once given, expresses a poignancy about this process of autumnn and deepens the message.
‘When I am King I’ll wear a robe of autumn gold and deep blue sky and tell my fierce red subjects ‘Hold up your rich dying, do not die For I’m your King.’ but they’ll reply Such robes are only won by dying.
The poem was composed by a young man who was diagnosed with an illness for which there was no cure. It was a powerful comment on his own impending death, but not in any morbid or fatalistic way. It ends on a note of hope. There is no way we can hold up the natural order of things as season moves into season. Nor can we hold up the process of our own dying which is as inevitable as that of the leaves falling from the trees. But it is how we view, or bear, this process of dying which matters. As Christians, death should be viewed as a positive experience which ought not to frighten us. Gilbert Shaw, an amazing guider of souls wrote:
God’s gift is death as well as birth: No man can close the open door, Through which the soul must pass from earth, To meet unveiled the LOVE that waits.
The open door, through which we pass from death to life eternal where LOVE, who is God, awaits us, in Christ Jesus. In His dying Jesus put on the robe of autumn gold that can only be won by dying. but in that dying he opened for us the way to a completeness of life that is far more glorious than we dare imagine. This is why we can face death hopefully. It is the door through which we must pass to God
At one level, the falling of the leaves is a sign of Nature’s essential renewal and there is never a complete dying. Even in Autumn, buds are forming on the tree which shed the old leaves so spectacularly. New life is always near, which is why there is such a truth in the poem by the young man facing his death. You cannot ‘hold up the dying’ . The rich robes of our Lord are ready to clothe us in Resurrection light and life and love. Autumn then, is a season of both the emptying of nature and the beginning of renewal and re-birth.
That is a truth for all who are prepared to allow God to draw our souls into the arms of ‘the LOVE that always waits.