This weekend we observe the autumnal equinox. Equinox, two Latin words meaning equal and night. On the equinox, day and night last almost the same amount of time, approximately twelve hours. With the autumnal equinox in the Northern hemisphere, we move forward from this day to the inevitable dimming of daylight, with less and less sunlight each day as we head towards the winter season of stillness and gestation and hidden contemplative time.
I was reflecting on the lessening of light this week as I watered my tribe of African violets, cyclamen, and pothos. Clearly, they respond to phototropism, that movement of leaning or bending towards the light. Weekly, I notice their tilting in the direction of the sun’s rays and so I give their pots a turn of 90 degrees to adjust their growth. This insures that they won’t grow in ways that are lopsided, that they can remain balanced and centered. It’s a reminder to me to do the same in my own inner soul life.
I’ve learned that plant responses to light depend on a plant’s ability to sense light through photoreceptors. And I wonder, given my allurement to light, if some of those same photoreceptors might have migrated to my human body. Is it possible that I and others who are so drawn towards the sun, are perhaps part plant? Is it imaginable that, on some deep, primal level, we might be kin to the very tribe of green leaves and flowering buds we tend so lovingly?
My office, where I’m writing now, is drenched in the fullness of afternoon sun. Sometimes when I walk into this space around three o’clock, I sense the pull of the sun’s rays. It’s both palpable and startling. “Oh, it’s your favorite time of day,” I say aloud to my plant neighbors. I thank them for their quiet company, for purifying the air, for enhancing the quality of my inhaling and exhaling.
And I remind them, as I remind myself, that the surges of growth that late spring and summer invite are now left behind us in memory. In the northern hemisphere, autumn brings not the lush growth of the past few months but instead a change of form. As she paints the trees with vibrant brushes of color, she invites us into quiet and daydreaming and wondering and awe.
In The Circle of Life, Joyce Rupp and Macrina Wiederkehr reflect, “Autumn is a wondrous metaphor for the transformation that takes place in the human heart each season. When we notice a subtle change of light outside our windows, we know the dark season is near.” The authors invite us to ask significant questions about where we find ourselves in our own inner harvest: “What do we need to gather into our spiritual barns? What in our lives needs to fall away like autumn leaves so another life waiting in the wings can have its turn to live?”
So here we stand on the edge of a new season unfolding. May we welcome autumn with a steady spirit of quiet expectation, of assessment, of reflective time, of taking stock as the external light lessens. May we take up the invitation to enter into this season of burrowing, of waiting, of gathering, of harvest.
Sit in stillness with the Holy One.
What might you see ripening and nearing harvest in yourself at this time?
Is there a gift that you long for in this season of surrender and letting go? Ask for it.
Give thanks to the Holy One for all that grace has enabled to flourish in you season after season.
Sr. Chris Koelhoffer, IHM, a Sister, Servant of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, is an author and spiritual guide who offers retreats and presentations throughout the United States and Canada. She is a long-time contributor to Living Faith, Living with Christ, and numerous other spiritual publications and is the author of Longing for the Endless Immensity. Sr. Chris is profoundly grateful for the ways her worldview has been shaped by people on the margins, by the arts, and by the power of story. Learn more about her mobile spirituality ministry by visiting her blog, Mining the Now.