Ode to Autumn
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness!
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells….
…..And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from garden-croft.
(Selected parts of ‘Ode to Autumn’ by John Keats)
This is one of the few poems I remember from school, but obviously one that made an impression on me. If you want to hear the full poem go online and listen to it read in all its glory, by Janet Harris. (1)
Before you do, let’s explore what we think of in Autumn.
Obviously, we are aware of the changing colours and falling of leaves, and where the Americans get their name for Autumn – The Fall
(Apparently, the English were actually the originators of the name – The Fall).
What else comes to mind? Well for me it is the picture described in Keat’s poem. The ‘harvest season’. A time of reaping what has been sown. A time of richness and wealth of colour and food – of fruit and vegetables, and nuts and berries – a time of thankfulness.
Autumn suddenly comes upon us and is a such beautiful time for the senses, especially visually. The air is also much fresher. You can feel it catching in your breath and the scent of the late honeysuckle, the pinecones, chestnuts and the damp earth, and you are more aware that you are alive.
But, it’s a sort of mixed season of sadness and happiness, a time of endings and a time of beginnings.
On the one hand it is the end of the longer days of summer and warmth and brightness. But it is also a time for change –– the days are shorter and colder, the leaves are actually dying so there is not enough light for photosynthesis to occur. As the days shorten throughout Autumn, the trees begin to close down their food production systems and reduce the amount of chlorophyll in their leaves. (2)
But there is a paradox here. Although the leaves are dying there is beauty in their golden orange, red and brown leaves, at the same time. They go out in a blaze of glory, fall to the ground and replenish the earth to produce new soil and at the same time the trees store their strength for the winter and their goodness for the new buds in spring. It’s the renewal process. It is an ending and a beginning all at once.
It’s also a time of preparation. Preparing for the winter, obviously for the farmer, but traditionally it has been a time for harvesting for the wider society, gathering into barns and stores, for finishing the jam-making, for pickling vegetables and for making apple pies. But for most of us, the process from the field to the table has become far removed from our every day lives with the convenience of our huge supermarkets, cars and modern home comforts.
Thinking about this autumn season of reaping, bringing in the harvest, gathering in what has been sown or planted at an earlier time of year, got me thinking about our lives and the things that we choose to do and the consequences of our decisions.
If we decide to eat junk ‘food’ now we will eventually become sick later, maybe not over a few weeks or months but over years it will have an accumulative effect. Our bodies need proper nutrition and exercise. This time of year reminds us about the provision of all the beautiful ‘fruits of the fields’ that are available to us and these are continually provided for us. “I give you every seed bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.” (3)
Think about it, ‘self-seeding’, reproducing itself (with the help of our bees, of course).
And so it’s Not just food for today, but food for tomorrow and the next day, and month after month, and year after year, if we look after what we have been given and don’t cause pollution and harm.
We may differ in opinion as to how old the earth is, but most would agree that it is at the very least 6000 years old. Unbelievable provision – fruits and vegetables that have sustained millions and millions of people over thousands of years.
Exactly the right food that matches and sustains our bodies, and of all creatures on the earth.
That’s some amazing system!!
And one we need to protect!
The way we treat our world now will have consequences for our children, and our children’s children.
The way we treat our bodies now will have consequences later on in life. In order to change the negative process we have to take responsibility for ourselves and our children. Our choices matter. What we do now will have an effect later. If we rush about, always in a hurry, overdoing things, burning the candles at both ends now, we will cause untold stress on our bodies and minds until we become overwhelmed and our bodies can’t keep up with it all. This affects our immune systems and we become run down and eventually sick.
That’s a sort of ‘couldn’t care less, and we’ll just get it sorted later’ attitude. The obesity and diabetes crisis is just getting worse. People are eating more and more but not getting the proper nutrition because they are eating the wrong things. The number of sick days due to stress is phenomenal and a huge cost to the UK and American employers, never mind to ourselves. Too much alcohol, smoking, drugs (including prescription and the non-legal kind). All of these are at epidemic levels. Now, I’m not blaming all our sicknesses on ourselves but we do need to take responsibility for our own health, for our actions for the things we know will harm us, and not just go ahead doing anything we want to now and then expect it to be all ‘fixed’ by doctors later.
It can take a lot of hard work to do the right things now. It’s not easy. But then, who ever said it was. To get the reward you must do the ground work. Farming was always one of the most labour intensive jobs you could do. And even with all the modern machinery it still takes you to be pretty hardy as a small farmer to survive all its challenges: the early mornings, the continual demands, changing policies and competition of the larger industries, managing money, land and crops, animals, machinery, tools, weather and just the maintenance of it all.
So what ground work are we laying down now?
Which seeds are we planting?
What are you feeding your body?
Your mind? Your Soul? Your heart?
Nourishment is important for all aspects of who you are, but how are you nourishing yourself?
What are you paying attention to?
Are you being entertained or are you learning, growing, creating?
The invention doesn’t happen without the inventor.
The creation doesn’t happen without the creator having the idea, the plan, the design and the implementation of that plan. We reap what we sow, indeed.
For those coming from the Christian perspective you will have heard of the verse ‘The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.’ (4)
That’s a big challenge to lay down to you in particular. What seeds are we sowing in order to create those fruits? And if those fruits were more evident in all of us, what a different world we would have if we really thought what it meant; ‘To fill all fruit with ripeness to the core’
Sometimes, we (and I include myself) need to stop and look around us. To see how blessed we are, to reflect on what we have been given and are continuously being given on a daily basis, to be thankful and take responsibility for the health of ourselves, to share with others and to care for our planet and leave a better legacy for our children and grandchildren.
I hope you can get out and enjoy this glorious Autumn season!
1. Ode to Autumn, John Keats (https://www.youtube.com/
3. NIV: Genesis 1 v 29
4. NASV: Galatians 5 v22-23.
Flower arrangement in top banner by Sharon Edmonds (my wee sister)
Photo images: Heather Dempster
Other images: free royalty images