Whenever autumn rolls around, I can’t help but feel a sense of awe and wonder. It is my favourite time of year, bar none. It is the moment when everything in nature reaches its ultimate purpose. The plants produce their seeds and then turn off their chlorophyll machines, their work well done. The young creatures born of spring have grown to stand on their own four or two feet– ready to face the long winter ahead. And from the human perspective, the harvest is done and we begin to gather everything in so that we may have warmth and plenty in the winter season to come.
Admittedly that sense of gathering is more metaphorical than actual these days– as we human grasshoppers can now continue to frolic and play without fear of freezing or starving to death, as in the days of not too long ago.
But there still is a sense of completion which comes in autumn which is marvellous, satisfying and sad all at once.
I do think other cultures perhaps appreciate the autumn more than we do here in Canada.
I think back to my time living in Japan many years ago. Autumn was not just a turning of a season, it was an excuse for spiritual and cultural togetherness.
It is very common in Japan for people of all ages to set viewing parties to take in the full glory of the turning leaves. They go in small groups out to a nearby forest and set up a picnic blanket on the ground and spend the day out, sitting and appreciating all that they see. Often they bring some lunch or some saki, or beer, with them. In the past, the occasion would often call for some haiku readings or some gentle live music, but not so much amongst the youth of Japan these days.
Another culture which seems to really celebrate the autumn season deeply is the Austrians. When I visited Austria back in the fall of 2007, friends of mine there took me to a traditional farm feast. It is customary these days that farms in the Styria region of Austria once the harvest is gathered to invite visitors to come out and eat a meal of foods, including cheeses and meats, prepared right from the bounty found on the farmer’s land.
Of course, there is some beer drinking and singing which accompanies the occasion.
That’s not to say we don’t have our own harvest traditions here in Canada, but it seems the deep underlying appreciation of the season is at another level in those cultures.
Autumn does not last long in Alberta and before long the chill of winter will be upon us again.
Enjoy the season while it is here and get the most out of it you can.