Autumn

a poem for autumn

a poem for autumn

Autumn

It is autumn. We fold into ourselves.
And look, one morning the rain has arrived.
Stars peep between the whiteness of clouds.
Crickets sing in the late afternoon.

It isn’t death we fear, nor mourn
shortness of life. As light grows soft
we fold ourselves into ourselves,
dream thoughts and sleepy slowness,
to find those depths we had forgotten,
strange dreams we never knew we had,
first green leaves of the bulbs
that bloom before winter’s end,
tears at the cricket’s sad fluting
in the early dusk.  Margaret Fensom

Clean Sweep
Swept skies, wind-brushed down trees –
The gust of swift strokes passes
Through grasses teased and combed.

Who owns the fallen leaves?
No one’s neighbour does.

On an edge that is a balcony precipice
Overlooking the microcosm,
You can see the swing of the broom
Rush everything before it down suburban paths.

I listen to my aching sigh, you make
A sweeping statement
That blows away to where leaves go,
And stays.

Somewhere there is a settling
Whilst we lean on brooms and gaze…
Somewhere breezes lie in wait
For the straggle leaf days.
JR McRae

Dead leaves crackle and shout their praise,
shake their shakers and noisemakers,
applauding in gratitude
for all the green that has gone,
all the life, the breathing in and out,
the shade, the birds sheltered
and bugs fed, air cleansed,
the nations healed, the earth renewed.

Give thanks
for the gifts offered, the things we leave,
the mistakes made, the afternoons spent.
Give thanks for the nights
when even the leaves rested.

Give thanks for ourselves, finely veined,
the chewed edges of grief, love given,
our letting go and arriving.
Kick the leaves.
It was good, it was good.

Give thanks for the welcoming earth,
receiving life and death with open arms,
making of our words and hands
a compost for others.
Give thanks that it all settles
into the dark, into the moist mystery,
already, under scumbling clouds
devoted to the green rising.

Kick up for joy the heart’s dry husk,
this blessed sackcloth, future’s bones,
the peace of doing without,
this rustling flesh, this loss.

The white oak, the red oak, the hickory,
the maple, the beech, the ash, all praise,
the grasses, the dry grasses praise.
(Source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light)

May we live 
with the grace of falling leaves,
the enthusiasm of the flaming Japanese Maples,
and with the serenity of the old fruit trees,
whose roots reach deep into the earth…

May we know 
that living and dying are one,
that life is precious, and beautiful, and limited,
and that nothing good is ever lost…

This autumn, may we see 
in the ways of nature
a way for ourselves.
(Source: Christine Robinson/adapt, UUA Worship Web)

“Help me say Goodbye to the Leaves”
(a meditation)
Grant me courage, Lord, to say goodbye
to the leaves,
to accept the turning.
I want to ignore the red and yellow
glimmers hidden among the greens-
proof that the seasons will,
as they always do,
change again.
The greens I draw energy from
[have] transformed into brilliance,
then fallen and disappeared,
revealing long, black limbs against
grey skies.
I will think of
times past,
people past,
mortality.
Give me courage, Lord, to say goodbye. (Lindy Conroe, For All That Is Our Life)
Let us take a moment to settle into the silence.
(Silence)
In these brief moments of silence and meditation may we find strength.
May our lives be rich in affection,
deep in understanding and
sympathy for each other.
May the blessings of life be known to all. (Adapt.Bob Holmes/wm)

Prayers for autumn by John Birch on his website.

Autumn Comes in all its Fullness (Tune: ‘Hamilton Avenue’, 87 87)
Autumn comes in all its fullness
harvesting both land and hearts
Autumn has its birth in winter
in the stillness where life starts.
Refrain:

Every death brings hope of birthing,

every birth enfolds life’s end,
for the seasons of our living
mirror patterns nature penned.

Autumn gives us time for choosing
seeds which bear the richest fruits,
fragile life which we can nurture
into just or vain pursuits.
Refrain:

Buried in autumnal endings
lies the shoot that bursts the tomb
for the letting go in autumn
sows the seed that births the bloom. (William L Wallace)

Refrain:

“God Gives the Song” (Tune: Kingsfold’ 86 86D, 262 TiS)
God gives the song which we shall sing
Of freedom for us all
To leave behind our guilt and fears
And break our narrowness
Refrain:
Come share your tears of joy with me.
Dance like the Autumn leaves;
Life is for loving, joy and fun,
God is the lively one.

God gives the song which we shall sing
Of laughter for us all
Of twinkling eyes replacing frowns
And structures freed by clowns.
Refrain:

God gives the song which we shall sing
Of justice for us all
Of sharing with the hungry poor
What they should own by right.
Refrain:

God gives the song which we shall sing
Of peace for everyone
Of quietness amid the noise
And love in place of war
Refrain:

God gives the song which we shall sing
Of loving for us all
Of fragile dreams and constant care,
Acceptance, warmth and hope.
Refrain:

God gives the song which we shall sing
Of oneness for us all
To bind together all that lives
So all shall know their worth. (WWallace)
Refrain:

Our World Around Us: “Autumn Meditation by Elizabeth Strong.
We know the leaves are dying.
We know that their blaze of beauty is a preparation for death.
It is a time when we appreciate the effort of nature
to rise above the ordinariness of life and death.
It is a time when we visibly comprehend glory and wonder.
We feel now that the air is cool and crisp.
We feel now a clearing from the skies
of the heaviness of the hazes of summer.
It is a time when we appreciate the crispness and sharpness
of the realities of life and death.
It is a time when we physically comprehend the relief
that clarity and insight can bring.
We hear now the dry rustle of plants and grasses.
We hear now a crackling from the earth
that tells of the withering of the fullness of life.
It is a time when we appreciate approaching rest from the frantic fullness.
It is a time when we hear a different voice within,
and know that life is settling down for a well deserved wintering.
Let it be so within each of our lives
as we prepare for an autumn in our own life cycle.
For we all need rest and respite
if we are to understand and appreciate
the rhythm of life in our soul.

Autumn by Ann Gray.
Autumn sneaks upon me
with the rain.
Suddenly,
a shout of colour
compels my captured eyes
and stops my breath.
I gasp,
at brilliant yellow, mustard,
purple, persimmon and red,
camellia pinks,
and iced sky piercing through to greet.
Colours of joysplash stroked on…
Acrylics sing my heart…Each shaped leaf, equal…
the best,
demands my feasting eye.
Contented canopies…
until, tomorrow’s appointed time,
one by one
they softly drop,
a wafted griefing fall,
spiralling,
to lie with friends… that touch.
An overwhelming palette…nourishing my feet.
I’m too moved to speak!
Looking up next day,
drawn back again I see,
strong fearless ribs,
of charcoal grey.
An almost leafless tree.
Like roadway maps
the branches run, to decorate the sky.
North east, north west,
‘good bones’ they say, that make for great design.
There’s more to tell.
Willow, arched and oranged,
supple arcs of strength,
Ash, cherry, pear, birch, the elm,
and last not least, I see
the grafted sturdy Apple,
good stock,
coated silver, branching expectantly…
The Autumn thrill so huge.
It ‘colours’ me,
this Presence… when I see.

In 1995 Palmer Parker wrote a reflection on the four seasons. Here is his autumn reflection:
Autumn is a season of great beauty, but it is also a season of decline: the days grow shorter, the light is suffused, and summer’s abundance decays toward winter’s death. Faced with this inevitable winter, what does nature do in autumn? She scatters the seeds that will bring new growth in the spring—and she scatters them with amazing abandon.
In my own experience of autumn, I am rarely aware that seeds are being planted. Instead, my mind is on the fact that the green growth of summer is browning and beginning to die. My delight in the autumn colors is always tinged with melancholy, a sense of impending loss that is only heightened by the beauty all around. I am drawn down by the prospect of death more than I am lifted by the hope of new life.
But as I explore autumn’s paradox of dying and seeding, I feel the power of metaphor. In the autumnal events of my own experience, I am easily fixated on surface appearances—on the decline of meaning, the decay of relationships, the death of a work.
And yet, if I look more deeply, I may see the myriad possibilities being planted to bear fruit in some season yet to come.
In retrospect, I can see in my own life what I could not see at the time – how the job I lost helped me find work I needed to do, how the “road closed” sign turned me toward terrain I needed to travel, how losses that felt irredeemable forced me to discern meanings I needed to know. On the surface it seemed that life was lessening, but silently and lavishly the seeds of new life were always being sown.
This hopeful notion that living is hidden within dying is surely enhanced by the visual glories of autumn. What artist would ever have painted a season of dying with such a vivid palette if nature had not done it first? Does death possess a beauty that we—who fear death, who find it ugly and obscene—cannot see? How shall we understand autumn’s testimony that death and elegance go hand in hand?
For me, the words that come closest to answering those questions are the words of Thomas Merton: “There is in all visible things…a hidden wholeness.”
In the visible world of nature, a great truth is concealed in plain sight: diminishment and beauty, darkness and light, death and life are not opposites. They are held together in the paradox of the “hidden wholeness.”
In a paradox, opposites do not negate each other—they cohere in mysterious unity at the heart of reality. Deeper still, they need each other for health, as my body needs to breathe in as well as breathe out. But in a culture that prefers the ease of either-or thinking to the complexities of paradox, we have a hard time holding opposites together. We want light without darkness, the glories of spring and summer without the demands of autumn and winter, and the Faustian bargains we make fail to sustain our lives.
When we so fear the dark that we demand light around the clock, there can be only one result: artificial light that is glaring and graceless and, beyond its borders, a darkness that grows ever more terrifying as we try to hold it off. Split off from each other, neither darkness nor light is fit for human habitation. But if we allow the paradox of darkness and light to be, the two will conspire to bring wholeness and health to every living thing.
Autumn constantly reminds me that my daily dyings are necessary precursors to new life. If I try to “make” a life that defies the diminishments of autumn, the life I end up with will be artificial, at best, and utterly colorless as well. But when I yield to the endless interplay of living and dying, dying and living, the life I am given will be real and colorful, fruitful and whole.
Parker J. Palmer is a writer, speaker, and activist who focuses on issues in education, community, leadership, spirituality, and social change. The article was published here.

Trees burn with autumn colors.
Sky smokes and smolders.
Berries ripen, soften, wrinkle and fall.
Ferns have gone gold and brown,
frost brings them down. Leaves die
and dive or dance, or spiral down
or drown in the darkening brook.

We put the garden to bed, and cut
stems back, its vines gone black.
Tomato plants look weary now.
Life is a ragged leaf,
its edges rough, bug-eaten,
a leaf that’s going to fall.

But wait.

All this sad talk of autumn death and loss
just isn’t right.
Too much defeat and diminishment.
It isn’t all decay.
This is a time of harvest,
of showing your true colors,
of offering what is ripe and beautiful
and life-giving.
Those tomatoes are just coming on.
If I hang the vines with faith
I’ll still be eating ripe ones in winter.
What may look like a day of death
is a day of fullness.

The trees are brilliant,
startling in their brashness.
They’re old enough to get away with it.
Brilliant.
(c) Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light

Autumn leaves sunset sky

Autumn leaves sunset sky

poem for autumn

poem for autumn

About admin

Rev Sandy Boyce is a Uniting Church in Australia Minister (Deacon) in placement at Pilgrim Uniting Church, in Adelaide CBD (12 Flinders St). This blog is mainly to resource worship planners for our services, but of course may be useful for others. We have some great writers of music, words for hymns and liturgy at Pilgrim, so this blog also includes their words.
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