Each morning I sit on my balcony in the sun and quietly eat my breakfast. As I enjoy my muesli, I watch the last tomato slowly ripening on a withering plant.
I feel I’m in the presence of a mystery, as I watch the colour deepen a little more each day. How does ripening happen? What is going on inside the tomato as it swells into more perfect roundness in this mellow time?
The vermillion glow, that brings me such pleasure, how is it produced?
As I watch, I wonder: When will be the right time to pick? How will I know?
If I delay the moment, it’s likely that birds will swoop in and take the prize. Somehow I’m convinced that this tomato will taste sweeter than the others, the ones that tumbled off the plant at the height of the season.
A new season
Yes, the balance has tipped since Equinox, and autumn is here. It’s a gentler transition than the lurch into spring that is occurring in the northern hemisphere, with the usual dramatic reversals and turn arounds.
Spring prances, but autumn creeps in, spreading with it a glow of satisfaction. Autumn rains have allowed the fruit to gather its full juiciness. Autumn’s lingering warmth allows the flavour of summer to gather and intensify.
And then summer is over, and it’s time to say goodbye.
Before saying the final goodbye, harvest needs to be gathered: not only on the outside, but also on the inside.
What is it that you are gathering up? What is it that summer has given you? (And if you are in the northern hemisphere, what are the gifts of winter?)
Even though the seasons repeat themselves each year, yet they are different. The summer just passed is different from the one before.
Something in you will have opened up, in a new way. Has your heart made more space for love? Has your life included a new adventure? — it needn’t be a great overseas trip, for adventures can take place close to home. Your adventure may be as simple as discovering a new café or getting to know a new neighbour. Has new learning been prompted by challenges, that bring with them the imperative of a new perspective?
(If you are coming out of winter, what deepening has occurred over the dark months? What dreams have been quietly gestated?)
When you pause to remember, and to savour your own growth, you may be surprised by the ripeness that has taken place in the season that is now passing.
And so, here in early autumn, it is time to pause to give thanks. What is the juiciness, the sweetness, that you wish to savour and to store inside you, ready for the dark times that lie ahead?
Write it down, your love letter to the season, or create an altar with symbols of ripeness.
Sharing around the dinner table
Family and friends can be included in your savouring. Children love to join in with this kind of celebration.
Here are three simple steps:
* First, invite everyone to think about the very best of early autumn, and what ripeness evokes for them. Ask them to draw, make or gather something that expresses the season’s ripeness. What do they want to celebrate and remember?
* Second At the meal table, gather round before the food is served. You might like to decorate the table with berries or autumn foliage. Make space for each person briefly to say something about their offering and to place it on a platter, or into a shallow basket.
* Third, everyone lights a tea-light candle (they can be placed on a large plate and adults can help light if children are young) and says a simple phrase, such as ‘Thank you for the harvest’. Then all can link hands and sing a song.
This could be our southern hemisphere thanksgiving, to honour the bounty of the season, and the harvest both inner and outer.
For you in the northern hemisphere, you might like to adapt this into a ritual of saying goodbye to winter, by gathering up its gifts and celebrating its own distinct flavour.