The Alchemy of Autumn

(as featured in One Thousand Trees – September 2013 Issue)

September has always felt like the beginning of a new year for me. Perhaps it’s my association with the start of the school year, since I’ve always considered myself a student of life, or maybe it’s because it’s a time of harvest, abundance, and planting, which for me inspires a fresh start and an ideal time for new beginnings. What stirs my soul and awakens my spirit during this cycle of the year is the palpable energy the season brings as it welcomes a period for evolution and transformation.

With autumn, also comes a reminder of impermanence. As the leaves fall to the ground, we realize the fleeting nature of things. But there is beauty in this.  As Emily Bronte wrote so eloquently, “Every tree speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the autumn tree.” For it is truly blissful to be able to let go of what no longer serves us, to release all the burdens that bind us, and to shed our skin so that we may truly be reborn.

A perfect symbol for this season is the ouroboros. The ouroboros is depicted as a snake or a dragon eating its own tail, generally taking on a circular form. The name originates from the Greek oura (meaning tail), and boros (meaning eating or devouring), thus “he who eats the tail”. Primarily, the ouroboros represents life and death and the perpetual cycle of existence. As the snake feeds itself with its own tail, he incites his own death. However, out of this death, he is once again reborn, demonstrating how creation can rise from destruction and how the process of renewal is unavoidable. This alchemical symbol is a perfect representation of transformation and resurrection. The ouroboros also embodies the themes of time, completion, self-sufficiency, purification, strength, persistence, and endurance. For me, the ouroboros represents the alchemy of autumn exquisitely.

During autumn, we welcome a time of death as well as rebirth. As a community, we gather together to reap the harvest and share in the abundance, while the earth begins to scatter and sow. Animals rush about, building up their stores for the winter and the earth prepares to sleep. It’s a time for busy activity as well as a time for introspection and reflection. As the fire of summer begins to soften with the cooling breezes of the season, we are gifted with a renewed energy to embrace this time of movement, transition, and evolution. Our pace quickens as we try to make the most of autumn, feeding ourselves with all of its beauty and splendour and its vibrant display of colour. We realize time is precious, fleeting, evanescent, and so we endeavour to fill our bellies, our hearts, and our spirits with all the wonders of the season.

This year, I feel September in full force as I say goodbye to an old life and welcome an important new beginning. Having recently moved to Guelph over the Labour Day long weekend, this month began with anticipation, excitement, and a wee bit of apprehension. Moving to a new city is always a big step. One thinks about building community and how to make new friendships, finding employment, and becoming familiar with new places, sights, and sounds. You begin to ask yourself, will I fit in here, will this new place be everything I imagined it to be, will I be happy here? While these are all valid questions, I’ve learned that the only way to make a place feel like home is to release the old and welcome in the new. There is no better time to transform oneself and sow new seeds of growth than when moving to a new place.

Like autumn, moving to a new home symbolizes the death of old ways and the planting of a new life. There is activity, chaos, fear, sometimes pain, but there is also exhilaration, animation, and so much joy. Like the colourful palette of autumn, the scenes of a new place stimulate the senses and truly enliven the spirit, making change and transition so much easier to bear.

Now, as I feel the fresh, crisp air against my skin and breathe in the rich scent of earth that autumn ushers in, I sense the change not only around me but within me. As the multi-coloured leaves begin to fall the to ground to fertilize the earth and as nature sows and scatters, I too shall shed my old skin, release my burdens, sprinkle my seeds, and plant my roots deep into my new home. I will swallow my tail and nourish my soul to allow myself to be reborn. And I will prepare to sleep, to dream, and manifest all that awaits to be breathed into existence.