I took these pictures on August 22, at the end of my week as a volunteer camp counselor at a local nature center and woodland gardens. I’d been hearing about the sudden and early onset of autumn as told by the change of leaves, but it was something else entirely to see it for myself. This particular morning was overcast and occasionally wet, though compared to the downpour at the beginning of the week neither the campers nor the counselors minded too badly. The great thing about it being gray and cloudy is that the amazingly bright foliage and fall blooms stood out even more.
I’ve been volunteering with this particular organization for almost two years now. In the spring and fall we have classrooms from all over the county visit for educational field trips with nature-based curriculum. The youngest children go on nature walks, where the primary lesson of the day is Nature Is Beautiful and Look What’s That Color? Preschoolers and kindergarteners are lucky enough to get puppets on their field trips, while older children start learning the basics of ecology and environmental science.
During the summer we host week-long day camps; for this camp in particular I helped watch over children ages 3-7 (which is a tremendous age difference, as those of you who have or work with children know!). Challenging and exhausting as it was at times, it was also amazing to watch kids explore the natural world. I’ve watched some of these little ones grow up over the past two years and will continue to do so as long as I’m with the program.
When I took these photos it was roughly a month before the autumn equinox. The arc between Lughnasadh and Samhain is hands down my favorite time of the year. Besides this being the “safe” part of the year for my own personal history, I find something so beautiful and inspiring about the birth of autumn from summer. For me, fall is the season when the earth starts to wake up and shift; certainly it is the time of year I feel most alive and spiritually awake. Flowers bloom in autumn too, seeds begin turning bright colors to attract birds and other animals, and the trees prepare to return their leaves to the rich soil of the earth below.
Fall is also a tricky time for me. The shorter days and cooler temperatures mean that depression may soon play havoc with my life again. I also absolutely, one hundred percent am I unable to tolerate the cold. I hate winter with all the unholy passion I can muster. Fall also means a return to my schooling, to the local UU fellowship I’ve called home since 2007, to new students at the academic college that employs me. The almost impossibly boring, mind-numbing lazy days of summer give way all of a sudden to a frantic burst of autumnal energy as everyone gets ready for the winter that is only months away.
And yet there is something glorious about the overlap of seasons as one settles into another. There is no sudden demarcation between summer and fall; gradually there is more of one and less of the other until suddenly it’s a week from Samhain and I realize I completely missed the moment summer fled from my world until the following year.
Until then, I am grateful for this mingling of seasons, of the early turning foliage mixed with hot summer temperatures. I am thankful that I can witness the turning of the wheel with beauty and grace.