Nights are cold, and the big down comforter is already on the outdoor bed. Although we’ve been having occasional rains, the plants are withering from the cold, shrinking back to their earthen bed with alarming speed. We’re scrambling for the last of the acorns before the bugs and bears get them and all, and relishing the last batch of Sweet Clover pesto before it’s finally gone. The moon still seems to be spinning by far too quickly, the time passing in a whirlwind of leaves and falling flowers.
For much of my life, this is the time of year I’ve chosen to move from place to place, wandering along with the change in the wind. Part of this is because it’s easiest for me to flow with the transition of the seasons themselves, and part of it is because I so hate to see the plants I love fade and die. These days though, I stay right here by the river. I try to be present with both the surge and ebb of life, to sit with the sadness of death as the leaves curl back and let the magic of transformation flood through me. The sunflowers rustle with cold and immanent frost and I allow the grief to rattle through me, a death song that leaves me momentarily still and sad.
The birds are quieting and the butterflies well on their way south to warmer lands. There are mornings when the canyon is so cold and silent that I consider curling up inside an acorn, and think of sleeping the winter away with my beloved plants. But instead I’ll huddle under my wool wraps and gather roots and barks. Sit by the warm wood stove and break apart twigs and leaves, listening to the boil of tea-water and stew.
Sitting on my worktable just now is a small heap of Wild Licorice, a quart jar of fresh Elderberry Elixir and a basket of drying Peach leaves. I sort and re-sort, blend and store. The shelves sage under their weight of tinctures, oils and dried plants and I admire the colors and texture of each hand gathered herb and preparation. The Medicine Lodge is totally packed with goodies and I know this cold season won’t find me unprepared.
In the late morning, I find a sunny spot on a boulder and play my bamboo flute to the cottonwood trees far below me, listening to the sound snake through the rock walls and slide into the beat of the river against the bank. My pockets are full of just gathered acorns, of Autumn bounty even as I play a song of letting go… even as I watch the last gold leaf fall from the Sumach bush.