In 1965, recording artists, The Byrds, released a record called “Turn, Turn, Turn”, a tune that grabbed the hearts of many. The song espoused the reality that for every ying there is yang or something to that effect. Adapted entirely from the Bible’s Book of Ecclesiastes and put to music by Pete Seeger in 1959, the song reminds us that there is a season for every human experience. That song came to mind this past Monday as we celebrated the Autumn Equinox, the shift from summer to fall, my very favorite season of the year. It also came with the realization that we have all taken one more turn around the sun, and I, myself, am one rotation closer to the autumn of life.
Despite marking the slow march to the end of another calendar year, for those like myself who work in academia, September is actually the beginning of a new year. As the season changes, the calendar begins its count to June. Kids go back to school, finished with the wildness of summer. Lives become orderly and scheduled again with work and commitments. The colors change. The daylight is just a bit more copper as the sun changes its trajectory. The evening sky more purple, darkening earlier every night.
The air changes. It becomes fresh and crisp with a touch of chill, that heady mix my lungs are greedy for, the smell of it so glorious. It brings out the scarves and gloves and rosy cheeks. I welcome the turn to autumn although I am having trouble leaving the summer behind. So much of it has stayed in my heart and in my mind. Yet I look forward to something new. This September again brings change I am grateful for. My children have moved into different jobs, new homes, fresh love. My heart sings for their happiness and the new richness in their lives. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus famously said that change is the only constant in life. There’s nothing to be done but go with it.
Yet change is hard. It can be painful. It can be scary and stop us in our tracks. Both of my babes moved from our home different Septembers, off to school and new life while our nest was left empty. It must have happened while I was turned around because it seemed to come so fast. September is the month we lost our beloved sister. The month we said goodbye to a loving uncle. We all still feel those losses like a painful ache, for things left unspoken and undone. Sometimes forgiveness is needed for change. Forgiveness of ourselves and of others. I have been through what many call the change of life for women. But if life is constant change which change of life do they mean? My change from child to teenager? From woman to mother? From lover to wife? From sick to healthy?
For all the change happening however there are still many things in the world that have not changed. We are still depending on children to speak out against gun violence and climate change. We need to heed the cries of the next generation if we are to survive…physically, mentally and morally. There is still a huge divide between races, genders, and religions. We can’t seem to cross the chasm no matter how hard some of us try. Some days I stand in my magic garden, surrounded by its beauty, breathing in the air wafting from the sea and the mountain as they pass me on their way to each other and revel in the peace I feel. I watch my cat wander through the changing foliage, sniffing the scents of the autumn. But then I hear the drones of massive warplanes flying over my head as they make their way west to aircraft carriers waiting to deploy and the booms of the nearby military base vibrate through the earth, up my feet and into my heart. Again this September, the drums of war are beating, even as we again remember a horrific act of terror that changed how we live in this brave new world. Some things never change.
Two weeks ago we were blessed with a brilliant full orange harvest moon. It heralded the coming of the equinox and autumn. It was such a different orb from the full moon I saw this summer in Chefchaouen, the one in full eclipse. That had a spell all its own. But times are a’changin’ as Bob Dylan once sang. I gather pumpkins on my porch, feeling the deep earth magic that comes with the preparation of the coming winter. In the mornings, I watch the neighborhood kids walk past my house to their bus stop, carrying their large packs on their backs, lumbering slowly with the weight like majestic pachyderms, their parents in hastily donned jackets over their pajamas, hugging mugs of steaming coffee as they wait for the school bus. That was me, many moons ago. I get myself ready for school as well, making my way to the college and taking another turn with a new group of students. They are excited and nervous and ready for change. And so am I.