Friday, September 11, 2015

Autumn is a time for Rejuvination and Relaxation

Autumn is a favorite time of year for many people.  It's not too hot, not too cold, and is filled with an array of changing colors among the trees and plants.  It's a great time to get out and see the changing colors and go for relaxing walks in the parks, hills and mountains.

This relaxing time of year has a lot of symbolism to it.  In Greek mythology it was believed that during this time of year Hades came up from the underworld and snatched the young and beautiful Persephone away, leaving Demeter (The Mother) grieving in agony for her kidnapped daughter, and so she refused to allow things to grow.  Thus, the dying of things and the changing colors.  It was believed, however, that they worked it all out, as Hades agreed to let Persephone come back up to her normal life in the Spring time, which of course is when Demeter stops grieving and allows all the flowers and plants to bloom again.  Until then, however, the earth was thought to be grieving as things died off for the winter, not to return again until Spring.

This symbolism of Persephone (a symbolic representation of all that is young and vibrant and lively) "going away" for a time, is seen in everything from the seasonal hibernation of the bear and the seasonal depression experienced by humans, to the falling of the leaves and dormancy of the trees and plants for winter.  It's as if everything is joining in Demeter's sorrow and falling into a slump of grief for the seasonal loss of life and vibrancy.

But wait, it's not all for doom and gloom.  Some versions of the story say that Persephone eventually wanted to stay in the underworld for part of the year just to bring her brightness and liveliness to those in despair.  In the same way, this time of year allows us to go within and do a little self nurturing.  In a way, we hibernate a little bit during this time of year, just like the bears do.  We go within as it gets darker earlier and spend a little more time sleeping, curling up with a blanket, and reading a good book.  In the Fall and winter months, we humans tend to fatten up a little as we crave heavier foods, and we rest a little more as we feel tired earlier in the evening as the sun sets sooner.  Grief often mimics the symptoms of depression, but in reality, it's only temporary sorrow that our bright and sunshiny days are shortened for a time.

Walking out amongst the fallen leaves can help us stay in touch with what is happening in the natural world as the seasons change.  It helps us to remember that we are a part of that same changing world, which means we are literally and biologically changing with the seasons as they transition from one time of the year to the next.  Feeling the crunch of drying leaves under our feet puts us in touch with an element inside us that is signaling for a resting period -- a rejuvenation period just as the trees shed their leaves and pull in for the winter --not to die off, but to remain dormant until Spring. 

The old myths also include a strong focus on this being a time of year for "harvesting".  While the element of growth and life (Persephone) is gone for a time, it's a great time to harvest what you've sown and let the "planting fields" of your life rest for awhile.  It's a good time for long walks in the woods, contemplation, slowing down, and taking time to rest.  It helps to challenge those culturally implanted ideas that we should feel vibrant all year long, which goes against the natural order of things and only leads to feelings of inadequacy and failure when we naturally feel like resting for awhile.  In addition, creativity surfaces only when things have settled down a little bit.  Once we've had our good rest, new seeds will sprout again.

Thanks to Julie Falk for her great photo - Autumn Days