Living in a Time of Autumn

My wife and I make our way down the mountainside as the late afternoon September light bathes the treetops in what my four-year-old daughter calls the “golden light”.

I notice the tops of all maples here are starting to turn red. This confirms what we’ve already sensed here in coastal Maine. Autumn is coming. Any doubts are erased when the sun’s midday warmth quickly dissipates as the golden orb fades behind distant mountains. I am eager to get to the car and put on my other layer.

Yes, autumn is coming. I am not just talking about the shifting weather, light and colors in New England either. I am also talking just as much symbolically and psychologically, as a species, society and planet. We are living in transitions as great changes are underway. The vivid displays we see in color on the leaves are matched by the big and bold displays we are seeing in our world as the need to wake up and take heed is increasingly evident. Just as the first red leaves begin to drop, much is already falling off and away in our culture:

  • We are appallingly behind with our climate action and the Earth’s alarm bells are reaching a dire pitch.
  • Social and economic inequalities are no longer hidden or acceptable.
  • Political dysfunction and threats to our democracy are hyper present.
  • Lack of leadership, ignorance and selfishness have already made Covid19 a global catastrophe.

Uggg. It’s all so painful and heartbreaking. My heart fills with grief and fear.

Our time of summer is over. Fantasies are breaking that the sunshine and warmth, blooming and harvest will continue forever.

Yes, summer is fun and the ride has been good. It’s not just plants and trees that have indulged during this time. We, too, have been soaking it up. Globally we’ve experienced unprecedented levels of growth and expansion, life has been increasingly comfortable and relaxed for many. We’ve been able to take for granted and not really think about the fruits of our hyper-industrial, capitalistic and consumeristic society. However, far too many have suffered from this exploitive model (human and our more-than-human brethren alike) for us to continue. Our current path isn’t sustainable. The outcomes of trying to avoid change and continue down the same road just won’t work. The consequences will be beyond perilous and catastrophic. The bubble of illusion must be popped. Now, we must transition into the fall.

Animals that don’t recognize seasonal changes and adapt accordingly suffer disproportionately. Let’s be honest, they die. Adapt or die. This is our call as well. No, now isn’t the time for sitting idly by and denying the signs that autumn is coming and here. We must be like birds and squirrels and get ready.

Action is required. By making changes now, we can become better prepared for whatever comes next. For this reason, we are offering an upcoming class on Resilience. It is unlikely we can stop climate change in its entirety from happening, but we can be resilient, adaptive and mitigate the worst of its effects. We can take additional action- politically, socially and communally-that supports the future we want. That creates a more just, equitable and regenerative future.

At EPI, we have an ecopsychological toolkit based on biomimicry (psychologically applying nature’s core principles and teachings). One of the core lessons is there is a season for everything. Life moves cyclically and our path is to remember this. We are currently in a time of transition. We are moving into fall. Autumn is a time of preparing and readying, rooting down and getting resilient. Many plants and trees–those not fruiting–use the season to shift from growing leaves to nurturing their roots. We must do the same.

In nature, winter always follows autumn. For our human culture and species, we don’t know what season will come next. This script hasn’t fully been written and is awaiting on us. It could very well be a dark winter ahead of us, for us, our children and grandchildren, if we don’t take immediate and robust action. I shudder for all young people, including my two little ones, at the thought. It is possible a blossoming spring emerges if we fundamentally change our systems and structures, to live in a way that tends the seeds of healing and regeneration we need

In these times of transition and uncertainty, don’t look away. Go bravely forward, accepting and giving yourself to autumn, to adapt and plan for the seasons ahead. Turn to face what is here. Grieve and lament the losses as needed. Learn what you can. Do the work that is called of you. But do it with an open heart. Rejoice in the colors, light and harvests-may they be even more beautiful and precious knowing what you do. Fall is here.

Deep Roots for Big Storms: Cultivating Resilience

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