Death knows no season, or rather, it knows all seasons. For those of us living where there are four seasons, and for those of us connected to the rhythms of nature, autumn is a season of dying. We witness the death of spawned out salmon, of annual plants. We see deciduous and perennial plants shedding their outer layers in order to draw resources inwards, for the survival of winter. In the plant world, this season of death is a brilliant display of color and a dramatic dropping of biomass. What sheds and dies serves both as a protective layer for soil and root systems, and also as nourishment for the new life to come when the growth cycle begins anew in late winter and early spring. I pray that I may find nourishment in my losses. I pray that all of my little deaths, and one day my physical death, may be so colorful, may nourish the cycle of life.
For many cultures, autumn has been, and still is, a time to honor and connect with our beloved dead. A time to tend the heart of our grief, both collective and individual. Death has many faces. It shows up in loss, in absence–of lovers, marriages, friends, mothers, fathers, jobs, dreams, livelihood, homes, safety, sense of self, access to clean air and water, unrequited love, miscarriage, and on and on. I have come to know that the cultural loss, the perversion, and/or the rejection of ceremonial and meaningful ways to honor and grieve the many faces of death has contributed to the existence of a deep well of unprocessed grief, some of which has grown toxic. Anyone who has tapped into this well knows it is full of pain, though it is not to be feared. It is not unchangeable, and it is also full of wisdom. Our grief can be medicine. Every time we take the time and space to lovingly tend our losses, our deaths, our grief–both small and large–here in this earthly life, we relieve the grief of our ancestors. We unburden our children and our children’s children. We heal ourselves. We cleanse and clarify the waters of our collective well waters. May you take time this season to open your heart to your grief, to tend to it as you would tend an overgrown garden–with patience, with love, with care, with imagination, and with the help of trusted and knowledgeable support. May your resilient heart weather the breaking. May you allow anger and fear to exit through the cracks created by the breakage. May you listen for the messages that come calling to you through the journey. May you welcome the tears and the laughter, equally. May you invite love, healing, and courage to settle into your tender heart.