Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Autumn Equinox: Giving Thanks

photo by DoAn
Today is the autumnal equinox, which marks when we experience an equal number of light and dark hours. After today, the days grow shorter and the nights grow longer
Traditionally, the autumnal equinox also marked the end of the annual harvest and was (and in some countries still is) an important event in agricultural societies, bringing with it a feeling of completion and abundance. For those dependent on growing their own food, it indicated the coming of the darker days of winter and reminded them of the need to show gratitude for a plentiful harvest. It was the true observance of Thanksgiving.

The traditional American holiday of Thanksgiving falls in November, and many cultures see this time of harvest as a time of giving thanks. After all, this is when the year's work can really be measured. The American Thanksgiving holiday was originally celebrated on October 3rd, which is much closer to the autumnal equinox. President Roosevelt moved the holiday later in the year, as a way to help boost post-Depression holiday sales. This is another example of how we have lost touch with natural cycles and rhythms.

For those living in urban areas, the equinox may seem to be no more than just another day on the calendar. But, no matter where we are, we all can sense the changes occurring. The temperatures cool more rapidly, the angle of light changes, and daylight gets scarcer. We may even find ourselves turning inward and becoming more reflective, as the chillness of the evenings, draw us inside earlier and earlier, similar to the way our ancestors retreated from the long days of labor in the fields, preparing for the coming season of cold and darkness.

One need not identify with any particular religion or faith to feel the change that marks the turning of season. After all, this is not about religious practice, but simply connecting to the richness of life that embraces us all. The outward symbols of the autumnal equinox are visible all over in Western consumer society, even though few people realize that the decorations and activities echo the traditions of ancient peoples. The autumn colors, the decorative corn, and the rich warming soups are remnants the old way of life, a life that was aware of the crucial role nature played.

Why not join me in experiencing a more mindful and deeper connection to the shifting of the season by engaging in some activities that celebrate the true Thanksgiving:

  • Give thanks to those who have been a blessed presence in your life in the past year.
  • Give thanks to the Earth, who without its unceasing generosity, you would not exist.
  • Give thanks to the darkness, for without darkness, there is no light. Without night, there is no day. Despite our conditioning to overlook the dark, there are many positive aspects to embracing the dark side, if only for a short time.
  • Take a walk in nature (a local park will do) and say “good rest” to the trees that are about to enter their dormant stage. Reflect on all the things trees give to us: food, wood, paper, etc. Trees give and give regardless of our appreciation or not. Why not say thanks?
  • Think of ways to honor the Earth. Perhaps begin a family recycling plan, or consider reducing energy consumption, or find ways to reuse more materials rather than just throwing things away, or other environmentally friendly activities.
  • Go apple (or pear) picking with friends and/or family. Taste freshly made cider, or make apple pies and share slices with your neighbors. (The other day I helped prepare freshly picked pears for canning and today I made spiced pear muffins and gave them to the staff of O.A.C.)
  • Visit the graves of your ancestors and share stories of their lives.
I hope you find more in life during this autumnal equinox than just another day to mark off the calendar. Imagine how much richer life can be when we pause to give thanks to all the things that sustain us throughout the year? Perhaps if more people take time to appreciate all that nature provides, people will find it less acceptable to treat the Earth with such disregard and disrespect.

Thanks to all my patrons, collectors, and readers for all your support. Without you, my work would be quite lonely and often impossible to do! I appreciate the myriad of things you give to me!

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DoAn Art is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. Contributions for the purposes of DoAn Art must be made payable to Fractured Atlas and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law. 

All artwork and text © Copyright 2005-2009 DoAn Art (Antony Galbraith) unless indicated otherwise. All Rights Reserved. Any downloading, copying or use of images on this website is strictly prohibited without express written consent by Antony Galbraith.

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