“Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;” John Keats
I love this time of year, the bright fire of nature burning on every tree and bush, the leaves rustling underfoot and the crunch of seed shells cracking on the forest floor. My children love it too, jumping in piles of carefully cleared leaves, searching for shining conkers by the side of the road and running easily in the clear, cool air. To be fair, it’s not just my children who love all that! Away from the burning sun of summer and before the silent shimmer of winter this season is, for me, the best of them all, closely followed by the spring.
But why? What is it about autumn that lifts my spirits so much? I have been thinking about this as I have walked through the pathways and fields near my home, soaking in the delicate sunshine and revelling in the vibrant firework display all around me. It is, I believe, the abundance of it all, the sheer abandon with which nature offers her fruits and seeds out to the world, not worrying about how people will react to them or whether they will all find a grateful home but just giving anyway.
I’d like to be more like that. I’d love for us all to be more like that. We, like the trees around us, have our own particular gifts. The oak tree does not try to compete with the apple tree; the blackberry bush does not berate the horse chestnut tree for not producing blackberries and the squirrel loves them all. None of nature restricts itself because of what the other trees, bushes and plants might think of them. It simply gives each space to fulfil its potential and give with no thought of what it might receive.
Some plants struggle more than others, depending on their soil and situation. Some will receive a better sun to water ratio than others, even in the same garden, and this will affect what they are able to produce. But they do not complain, or stumble or give up. They get on with making the best they can with the circumstances they have.
The apple tree does not visit every house where they make apple crumble to ask about whether their apples were best or whether they had made the most of the apples. They do not turn up and inspect our bins, complaining that we didn’t appreciate the gift enough if we let it disappear into our household waste. It gives its apples out into the world with no concern about where they fall or what happens next. And once it has given, it lets go of its leaves and takes a rest.
What would it look like for us to do this? What if we focused our energy on creating the best we can manage out of our gifts and situation? What if we gave up false comparisons, stopped trying to turn our juneberry selves into a beech tree or our peach tree friend into a blazing acer? What if we stopped worrying about the criticism we might receive from those who aren’t looking for what we have? What if we didn’t expect all of our offerings to find a home? What if that really didn’t matter because our gifts belong to us and we know we can make more, maybe not straight away, but in time for next season?
The challenges we face this year can help us to determine how we grow ready for the next harvest, learning to build on what we already have. We can shift our attention to move ourselves gradually closer to our source of warmth and inspiration. We can adapt to the soil we are in and learn to pull more of the nutrients from it. We can look for ways to make deeper connections ands spread our roots further to give us more opportunities for nourishment.
Could this lead us into a more creative life? I think so. Our gifts, like the fruit and seeds we see abundantly around us now, need care and nurture. Some times in our lives we have exactly the right conditions for us and we can manage a bumper crop. At other times we find ourselves lacking in sun, water or attention and so we find ourselves struggling to create, but still feeling that need to express ourselves in the hope our gifts may find a fertile audience and plant some creative growth in their soul.
Because that is why we do it isn’t it? We give so that what we have given may touch someone and take root somewhere deep inside them so that they in turn nurture their gifts in response and share their talents with the world. This is how abundance is created and how the world we live in can become so full of ripe and beautiful fruit.