This weekend, fall arrived in the Northwest in a clatter of rain: rain that soaked into the thirsty earth, feeding the tangled roots of the squash, tomatoes, beans; rain that will swell the streams, allowing salmon to surge upriver to spawn at last. I spent the weekend at the North Cascades Institute, teaching a class with my old friend Kurt Hoelting called Sit, Walk, Write: Nature and the Practice of Presence. The rain became an active participant in our daily sitting practice, thrumming the roof each time Kurt rang the bell, calling us to attention, reminding us that we’ve shifted toward fall.
The rain knew when to quit, thankfully, easing for an afternoon so we could hike up to the waterfall, walk in silence beneath towering cedars, douglas firs, and hemlocks—scarlet leaves of the vine maples shimmering in staccato relief. Together, we reflected on this transition, the outer landscape mirroring the inner transition we each must make. I returned feeling renewed, energized, at last able to welcome fall with an open heart.
It’s never easy to let summer go and this summer especially—this last month of September blue skies and days still warm enough to swim —but I’ve tried to take comfort in the rituals of fall: picking the last of the raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, apples, plums, figuring out ways to preserve as much as we can. We freeze the berries, slice up the good apples and freeze them for pies and cobblers, save the rest for cooking into applesauce with cinnamon or pressing into cider.
Our plum tree surprised us with a load of ripe plums this year, despite the drought, and I tried my friend Heidi’s recipe for Asian Plum Sauce, a tantalizing, complex, blend of sweet/spicy, perfect over salmon or chicken. As I lowered the jars into the water bath, counted out the minutes they need to process, I was reminded that we, too, need this processing time in the fall, need time to let go of the lazier days of summer, to shift back into work, teaching, projects, whatever fall brings. That with fall will come rain, roasted root vegetables and soup, time to gather again with friends at the hearth and around the table and yes, time to write.
All these rituals are preparation for what lies ahead. As I hang out the last load of laundry in the fading fall sun, pinning each dripping sock to the line, I let the words swirl in my head, trust that they’ll find their way to the page soon enough. That all these rituals give our minds the time they need to process, that soon we’ll hear the ping, ping, ping of the jar lids as they cool, feel the satisfaction as the words click into place.
Reflect on the rituals that help you shift into fall. Choose one to write about—giving us ALL the sensory details as if you could preserve it like huckleberry jam—and post it here. We look forward to seeing what you do to ease this transition, how words can help us process these rhythms in our lives as the earth tilts away from the sun once again.