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Nothing Gold Can Stay: Embracing the Darker Months

By Maggie Marangione November 14, 2023 Mindset

As the leaves fall, the trees become bare, and a few apples hang stubbornly on my apple tree; ebony crows sit watchful on the fence row. I, too, have hung stubbornly to the tree, resisting change. In the last few evening hours before Daylight Savings time ended, I frantically spent every moment outside, worshipping the last moments of that honey colored sun because I know what is coming. Darkness.

Despite being a gardener and naturalist, who is aware of the cycle of life, it has taken me a long time to honor this honest and inevitable turning of the wheel of the year. It was not until I addressed my own darkness and inability to rest, that I became able to accept and embrace the fading of the light. It is the fact that nothing lasts forever that makes every moment so precious.

Type A x 10, and Forest Gump

Like a beehive at the height of summer, I spent most of my life moving at warp speed. In my 50s, I realized this was a coping mechanism to avoid mourning and grieving the losses in my life, the heartache in my soul and the sadness of what had been taken from me physically, emotionally and spiritually.

When I ran a 10K like a pirate with a peg leg, three days before my first hip replacement, I had my come-to-Jesus moment. If you are stubborn and brave enough to do this, you are brave enough to stop because this is lunacy. It was like that iconic scene in the movie Forest Gump when he slowly stops his years of literarily running back and forth across the United States and announces he is going home.

Coming Home

This is not an easy process, but in a season where we are called to be grateful and give thanks, I am relieved that I am at peace. Just like that leaf slowly spinning as it falls from its mother tree, letting go of the life and sustenance, and spring and summer days of growth and sunshine, can be enlightening.

I, too, can finally let go of summer, embrace the unknown and all that comes with it. I can look into the darkening sky and not be afraid because I have learned to shift my focus inward, toward self-reflection and restoration.

My invitation to you is to rest with the cycles of nature, sending your energy down to your “roots” so that you may re-enter the next year from a nourished and replenished place and know that death is never final for the cycles of nature always promise rebirth.

Letting go of my emotional, and eventual mortal coil, like the leaf, I must have faith that I may not be the same person emerging in the spring or the next life, but I will reemerge.

Some Customs of Autumn that I Embrace

I remember all my friends and family that have journeyed on. My Italian family goes to the cemetery and has a picnic celebrating both our ancestors and their memories.

The Celts gathered around the fire and told and shared stories of their loved ones and warriors.

Meditation Is Part of It

I meditate on what behaviors, bad habits, and anxieties I would like to let go of as I release the emotions that come with each. It is amazing what I chose to hold onto, especially when release can be so very sweet.

Fire, the element of Autumn, is a potent way to release, let go or transform. I have numerous ways of working with fire and some are as simple as that first lighting of the woodstove, or the pine scented candles that line my windows. Also, I like to sit outside with a mug of warm cider and watch the glow of the burning wood in my outdoor fire pit.

My Burning Ritual

Finally, through the year I throw old trees limbs, the detritus of broken furniture, wood pallets and all other burnable materials on a pyre worthy of the Vikings. My family and I gather round with chairs, and I send all I want to dissipate into those orange, blue, yellow and green flames. It is a symbolic and very real way of burning off the dross of the year and all things that I do not want to carry forward. And then, after doing that, I can enjoy the warmth and magic of the flames!

A Shift in Lifestyle and Diet

I curtail wine drinking, prepare nourishing herbal infusions, cook my root vegetables, and take joy in the chestnuts, pomegranates, and cool weather greens like kale, spinach and swiss chard. Venison, acorn fed pork and that turkey grace my table.

Interestingly, it was the pomegranate that tempted Persephone, the Goddess of Spring. Hades, the God of the Underworld, lured and tempted her to his dark kingdom with that mahogany red fruit. But he found out he could not keep her forever. Her mother, Demeter, reminded Hades of the need for reawakening and revival, so he releases her every year for seedtime and pink blossoms.

There will always be spring, and I must remember, as the light closes in earlier and earlier every evening, the darkness, too, has earned its place.


Let’s Have a Conversation:

Who will you be next year? What would you like to let go of? Are there any old beliefs that may hold you back? What end-of-year rituals have you established to cleanse yourself of the old?

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Nice article on a cold, drizzly day in New Orleans


I loved this. just what I needed to clear my muddled mind, Thank you.

Kim S

Thank you for writing and sharing this. I needed it at this very moment. I am going thru some tough times right now, some of it is just me realizing I need change and some of it is losing my sister slowly. I intend to practice some of what you wrote. Thank you again.


Although I appreciate and agree with this piece……the header/title is quite off-putting……… Oh yes…IMO🙄


Feeling stuck!
After 3 years, I’m almost fully recovered from a stroke that shook every branch in my tree. I’m a widow and remarried last May, but I’m struggling with the presence of my mother-in-law in our home (she literally sits in it’s center, all day, every day). I’m trying so hard to reclaim my self and embrace my new spouse while navigating this central encumbrance. It doesn’t help that my faith has vanished and I’ve been unable to even reclaim my previous professional level. I’m just not sure where to turn.


The Author

Margaret S. Marangione is a Professor of writing at the University of Virginia and Blue Ridge Community College. Her novel, Across the Blue Ridge Mountains, has been submitted for the Pen Faulkner award. Additionally, her short stories, essays and poetry have been published in Appalachian Journal, The Upper New Review, Lumina Journal, Enchanted Living and Sagewoman magazine.

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