Meeting My Self

I leave for the UK soon. I decide to walk down in the valley, seeing if the old horse trails are still there, even though the horses are long gone. It’s a beautiful, sunny autumn day, the sun is hot and the breeze is cool. The milkweeds are releasing their seeds, the goldenrod drying in the sun. The leaves on the maple, birch, ash and poplar are changing into their autumn splendour. It’s utterly magical. The liminality of this time shines bright, and the veil between the worlds thins as we shift into another energy.

I walk slowly down into the valley. I say a blessing for the place, and touch the earth. I continue down through the trees out into the open space. I see a young woman with long blond hair down in the centre of the valley, and I smile. She’s walking slowly, just like I am, soaking it all in. Noticing the small things as well as the grandeur of the larger spirit of place. I say hello as we pass, she heading the way I came and I moving down towards the reeds, seeking the ridge where the horses used to shelter from the sun.

The paths are still there along the ridge, and where horses once keep the trail open it is now mountain bikers on the weekends. Regardless, I am glad that the trails are still there and that others are appreciating them, albeit in a slightly different way.

I walk along the ridge, the light shining through the pines and the birch trees with a soft, ethereal light. To either side of me the ground falls away sharply. This is a special place, a liminal place, which once only I and the horses knew. I walk up the hill along the ridge, and come out on top of the world. Well, my own little world from when I was growing up.

As a teenager, I would come out to this hilltop and sit, looking out over the forest and hills that I roamed, into the distance where the sun and moon rose over the mountain. I stood there and took it all in, and then saw the young woman once again, walking up along the trails that I used to walk, coming towards me from the other direction. It was like I was passing by my own self from thirty years ago. She sat down in the spot that I always used to sit, and gazed out over the mountains resplendent in hues of red, copper, orange and green. I had wanted to sit there and think, to become part of this land once again, but then I realised that my time here has come and gone. Now it is her time, and after her there will be others, roaming these hills in quiet solitude, discovering who they truly are and what matters most to them. Nature is always changing, and I must change with it.

I walk up to her and excuse my interruption. She smiles, and I ask if I can take her picture. I tell her that she reminds me of myself from thirty years ago, and she agrees with a grin. I know that grin. I take her picture, and thank her from the bottom of my heart. As I walk away down the path she walked in on, I silently bless her and the land and ask that future generations take good care of this very special place.

I am crying now, the tears releasing years of pent up energy and worry, of longing and hiraeth for this special place. But I know that it will be safe, that there are others who are seeing the beauty and who walk its paths in honour and in wonder. I know that the magic is still very much alive.

I wipe the tears and walk down the hillsides, back to the main path. I have come full circle, and met my own self in autumn’s light. The tides of time had shifted, and we came together for a reason. And I know that in autumn’s light, we count our blessings.

Samhain Musings…

Samhain, the time when the veils between the worlds are thin… I’ve been wondering about this term of phrase lately.  Why, on certain dates of the year, should the veil be thinner than at other times? Is there even such a thing as a veil between the worlds?

More and more I lean towards the negative – that there is indeed no veil, that the dead and the living walk side by side.  That there is no Otherworld, that the Otherworld and this world are all the same – it’s only our perception of it that makes it “other”.  We like to separate things, we human beings, to classify and put them in a place where we can understand them from a stand-offish perspective.  I would posit that, looking at nature, nothing is that simple, or can be tied so neatly to an idea.

Taking inspiration from the natural world around us, we see the living and the dead working together all of the time, whether it is autumn, winter, spring or summer.  Things are dying around us constantly – there is no specific season for it. Animals die, plants die, cells die – it does not wait for autumn. I admit, in the Fall we see the foliage around us withdrawing into itself, the leaves falling, the grasses returning to their roots, energy moving in different directions, from out into the sunlight to deep within the earth. This is not a death, however it may appear – simply a reversal of direction.

Like the double helix, energy is always moving, and never in one direction only. When everything appears to be dying here in the Northern Hemisphere, it is beginning to come to life in the Southern Hemisphere. The tides and times of life follow no one set of rules.

I may die in the autumn, I may die in the spring. Whenever I do die, my body will in turn nourish the soil, plants, fungi, animals and legion of other living beings on this planet in that great symbiosis of simply being. It does not rely on a season.  I do not cease to be, either. I simply cease to be in some form or other – my body will take on a new form. My soul – I believe that too will take on a new form, if nature has taught me anything.

In our agricultural year and society here in the Northern Hemisphere, we are at the end of our harvest season, and in that time we are able to take a break as the final crops have come in.  But we are still making our preparations for winter. Is there really a time to rest, to relax, before the snows come?  For some animals this is the busiest season, the squirrels squirreling away their stores, for example.  I’m sure our ancestors would have been busy all throughout the year, just trying to stay alive.

I’ve often thought of autumn as a time of rest, of rejuvenation.  I see now that perhaps “rest” wasn’t quite right.  Autumn is more a time of reflection, of going through what we have learned through the year, and through all the years of our lives.  It is a time to not stop, per se, but to take stock.

Along the way, our ancestors, who are with us always, can help us, guide us throughout our lives.  Having a special time of year set aside to acknowledge them is a good thing, but I would posit that we should honour where we have come from, our stories and our heritage, all that brought us to this point in time each and every day.  It is not a one-off thing. Like the holiday of Thanksgiving, I really enjoy and appreciate the sentiment, but carry that same sentiment with me throughout the year.

All that being said, this IS my favourite time of the year. I love the colours, the smells, the feeling in the air of the approaching winter, the stories of summer lingering upon our lips in reflection and contemplation.

Side by side with the ancestors, I honour the season, the tides and times of life, death, and rebirth.