The first leaves are changing. Along the roadsides, at the edges of fields and woods, there are scatterings of yellow and rust among the green. As you drive along, a few leaves spin down from overhanging branches onto the road and collect at intersections. In the woods behind the tree a beech sapling has gone brilliant yellow, and I look down on it from above, a spray of light among the shadows of the wood. We have had several days of unseasonable heat and humidity. Today is clear and drier, but the sun is still hot.
It is also the autumnal equinox: time of balance, evenness, equipoise. Day and night, evenly divided. Sunset and sunrise, at the same minute on the clock. There is as much light as dark, as much dark as light, balanced in the pans of an old-fashioned scale, the universe blindfolded like justice, measuring them out without prejudice.
It doesn’t feel like this. How can a time of year that is all change and flux, moving from summer into winter, back to school, new and crazy schedules, the evenness and warmth of long summer days disrupted, leaves threatening to drop to the ground in drifts, full moons like floodlights, winter’s darkness impending–how can this be a time of balance, of evenness? Of equipoise?
How strange that the time of greatest balance is the time of greatest change, mid-way on the journey from the longest day of summer to the longest night of winter. A time more chaotic than either extreme. I think of the yin-yang symbol. Summer contains the seed of darkness, and we are in that seed, and it is growing.
Sometimes feelings mirror seasons and there is a kind of harmony between oneself and the world. Sometimes anguish appears in its scarlet trace among the trees around us and also in our hearts. We see it and know it and it is us. The disruption of days and the wheeling of seasons and the slow descent into darkness. Pain in us as there is in the world.
Climbing the tree serves many functions. One of them is that it provides a place of refuge. A sanctuary from the world. A place to go where others are not. A place to be, alone, with the field spread out below, and the far hillsides coming back from across the meadow and the road and the valley like answers to the stark question that I am. (Have we not all felt this way at one time or another?)
And there is a consolation in the softness of the light, or the clear strong shadows of the hills stretched out across the valley, or the many shades of green along the ridges, or the way the trees in the distance glow with the setting sun, and it eases us.