“But now the days are short, I’m in the autumn of my years. And I think of my life as vintage wine from fine old kegs. From the brim to the dregs, it poured sweet and clear. It was a very good year.” – Ervin Drake, It Was A Very Good Year

There is something grounding, something earthly ceremonial about the change of seasons. The natural world is filled with answers to our longing. Nature is the great healer and finding time to spend in its sensual beauty nurtures the tired soul.

We live in such uncertain times, now it’s even more important to notice the rituals of the season around us and fill our hearts with gratitude for the small things that make life full. Here are 10 things that fill me with autumnal joy:

 
 

The Light Changes and the Shadows Grow Long

The light on the trail has softened from its bright and shining glare. The sun is no longer overhead and beating down on the well-worn path. Instead, it shines at an angel, pulling my shadow longer in front of me.

The trees reach their spindly arms in the wind, as if asking for the last bit of summer’s warmth. All the while, I stand motionless on the trail, in awe of the passage unfolding.

The Leaves Turn Colors and Swirl in the Wind

The winds blow in long, gentle breaths, and the leaves rain down, swirling about my feet, causing me to recall those leave forts that we built when I was seven; those little worlds over which we were the gods, playing out our fantasies with large imaginations.

Apples Come into Season

Apples abound in every variety and shade of red and gold this time of year. Can’t you just see the bounty of jewels in a basket of fall apples? Pies and cobblers, applesauce and butter, crisp round orbs that delight our tastes and fill our eyes with their simple beauty.

Cooking Hot Meals Again

We’ve spent a summer of salads and cold dishes; evenings when watermelon was all we wanted in the heat of summer. And now, with the cooler mornings and evenings, I celebrate hot cereal and warm dinners of roasted lamb with crisp potatoes.

My kitchen is full of smells – onion and shitake mushrooms, baking pears and cinnamon. I welcome hot food again.

Flannel Shirts

Like old friends, flannels waited patiently for these days to return. The cozy feeling of jeans and a Henley, layered with a flannel shirt becomes the uniform of the day. I feel so grateful to be able to dress in a way that keeps me warm.

Apple Butter

Every fall I gather up apples from the market, from friends, a few from my own tree, and I make apple butter. The thing about apple butter is this: “You have to cook the heck out of it,” as a friend told me last year when she made it for the first time.

And that’s the advice – don’t be afraid to cook it until you get the desired consistency. Here’s my recipe.

That Autumn Article for Sixty and Me

I know that there will be a kazillion articles on blogs all over the Internet about fall, and I am just a sucker for each one of them. I want to celebrate autumn each day that it’s here.

So, as with last year on Sixty and Me, I just can’t help myself. I have to write another article about all of the things we love about this season. I guess that’s become part of my ritual now.

Hiking in Cooler Days

There were days this past summer that were just too hot to hike. You had to go out very early, and if you missed that window of opportunity, it was gone until the next day. But now, the cool lingers and I can be leisurely with picking my time.

I love being on the trails, a light vest warming me, occasionally a hat. These are the days before the rains set in. I drink in the scenery and take great pleasure in watching my dog chase squirrels that he will never catch. The trails are like a church to me, and the prayer is gratitude.

The Sense of Being Pulled into the Quiet

The abating light and shorter days pull me into the quiet. I tend to be less social this time of year, lost in a world of writing in the early hours, making slow meals that must simmer and bake, and reading all of those books that I couldn’t find the time for in the warmer months when I wanted to constantly be doing something.

The Descent into Winter

I relate to the Greek myth of Persephone. The leaves faded and fell, the flowering ceased when she made the descent to the Underworld. The promise of spring would be her return.

Fall is that time of year which feels like a preparation for a descent into myself; a time of quiet and reflection, meditation and contemplation, appreciation for living yet another year and being a part of the miraculous cycle of life. This is a time of rest with a “thank you” on my lips. Life is good.

And what about you? Do you have a favorite autumn ritual, a ceremony of the season that fills you with joy? Please share with me in the comment section. And a very happy autumn to each of you!

Stephanie RaffelockStephanie Raffelock is a novelist and a blogger. In her Sixty and Me column, she explores writing, living fully and loving well. She enjoys literary representation by Dystel, Goderich and Bouret in New York. You can find Stephanie at StephanieRaffelock.com or Tweet her @Sraffelock.

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