For as long as I can remember, September has been one of my favorite months.
September is filled with good things; many more than the average month.
It begins in the United States with a holiday, Labor Day, which is essentially a day to prepare for all the other good things spread throughout the month. September is traditionally the month of going back to school, and the month in which our football really begins. It is the month of the autumnal equinox, when summer turns to fall.
September is the month in which we start getting serious about reaping what we have sown in the spring and tended all summer long.
September is the beginning of the final third of the year. All of those resolutions we made so long ago, and all those plans and goals we set start becoming real. We only have four more months to go!
It does not seem to me September has the same significance where I live now, in Southern California, as it did where I grew up, in Wisconsin. We celebrated a harvest festival each autumn.
The days get a little shorter, but it will not really start getting cooler yet. There is much less urgency about preparing for winter here, since winter is not much of a challenge. The temperature does not drop, even though the hours of daylight grow shorter and the shadows grow longer. Most of the trees remain green.
Autumn is more of a concept than an experience.
The seasonal transition from summer to autumn to winter happens in tiny increments.
Our seasons have more to do with featured flavors than with changes in the weather. We move from pomegranate to pumpkin spice to peppermint.
I miss the sense of starting fresh, of a clean slate; a new school year, a new season, a new beginning.
We want to find ways to spend this September reaping what has been sown and starting something new; new opportunities, working with new people in new situations.
How Will We Welcome Autumn This Year?
This autumn will begin in a couple of weeks. How will we welcome it this year?
Welcoming autumn can be like remembering the flavor of our favorite dessert. We take time to recall and find the flavors and texture again. It is not about eating the same thing over and over. Our appreciation deepens and grows as we take time to savor what we have tasted before.
We may be allowing flavors to roll on our tongue again or remembering the enticing aromas. We savor what we have already experienced, reflecting and drawing new appreciation from it.
Whether it is sights or sounds or aromas which remind us, we have memories of autumn. It may be geese honking overhead, smoke from an open fire, or leaves falling from trees. Autumn comes back to us, filling our minds with sacred memories as autumn begins again.
We can choose to take time to savor what autumn has to offer us. Sitting or standing still, we give our consent for autumn to teach us its lessons. Welcoming autumn, we slow down long enough to remember and reflect and recognize.
Remembering how delicious autumn can be opens us to tasting more each day.
It may be a taste of coffee or the smell of smoke from a pipe. Our memory make be sparked by a particular song or a specific place. We remember and pause to pay attention to autumn happening all around us, and within us.
What reminds us and what we hear when we listen are uniquely personal to each of us. No one else can describe the autumn we hear when we listen.
Some of us welcome the autumn of Halloween, or of Thanksgiving, or of football games. We sit still and allow autumn to wash over us, filling us.
It may feel like we are doing nothing, wasting our time. Why would we pause in our busy schedules, on purpose, to practice September? What difference does this month make in our lives, in our world?
Practicing September changes us from the inside out. When we recognize the value, the importance of taking time we begin to change. Our inner lives become more open and our public lives become more authentic.
We will probably not solve all our problems immediately. Slowing down and remembering gives us opportunities for the pieces to fit together in new ways.
As we begin to change we also show more of who we are to the people around us. We know ourselves better and can be more honest with ourselves.
Taking time to practice September shows ourselves to ourselves. We take time to reflect on the month we remember and the autumn we are experiencing right now.
This month whispers sacred truths in our ears.
The more time we take for welcoming autumn this year, the more insights and questions autumn can give us.
Take time this evening, and more time each evening, to welcome September, tasting and remembering.
Practicing September in New Ways
My September practices will not be the same this year as they were when I was a child.
There is very little raking to do now, and burning leaves is no longer allowed. Even football games are a different experience.
Practicing September this year is more about taking time to pay attention. We look for autumn, waiting for a chance of rain and the smell of fresh air on a windy day.
Autumn is less about the weather or harvesting crops than it is a way of experiencing the world.
We can be grateful each day when we have enough food to eat and to share, no matter what season it is. Our hearts are filled with thanks because there have not been so many large, dangerous fires this year. We are thankful we are still here when so many have been lost to the disasters of disease and climate devastation.
Living here, in the land of endless summer, we carry our autumn with us, even when we go to the beach.
Each of us explores our own new ways of practicing September this year.
How will we begin practicing September today?
When will we take time to practice September this week?
[Image by Marufish]
Greg Richardson is a spiritual director in Southern California. He is a recovering assistant district attorney and associate university professor and is a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is http://StrategicMonk.com and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.