“The trees grow more restless;
October wind weaves through them;
They shake their arms in dismay
As if to fight the coming cold
And the grief of leaves going.”
- The Ache of Autumn in Us (Joyce Rupp)
Ouch! The activity and feelings evoked in this month are not necessarily ‘dismaying’ for us! They can be helpful for our emotional health. Here are some examples:
- Autumn: Warm days, cool nights, earlier sunsets, the colour of leaves and ditch flowers - there is no month more than October which offers such vivid change. October invites us to see, name, and open ourselves to change as an integral event and life skill. Our ability to embrace change and manage it well helps us to develop as people. The spiritual writer Joyce Rupp speaks of the “existential ache” of autumn, and the need to grieve the losses and endings which are so much a part of our lives and the changes we experience.
- Harvest: October plunges us into the peak of our agricultural harvest - soya beans and corn, tomatoes and squash, apples and pumpkins. The bounty of the food harvest might encourage us to see the harvest in our own lives. What effort and hard work can we name and celebrate? Praising the work of others who have performed well or bettered themselves is one good way of ‘harvesting’ the accomplishments going on all around us. It feels good to reap the rewards of such efforts and to compliment others for what they have achieved.
- Thanksgiving: this national holiday might seem early, but it brings family and friends together and reminds us of how important such connections are in our lives, not to mention the value of gratitude and the things we have to be thankful for. We are ‘wired’ for connection with others. Loneliness and isolation are painful. Finding ways to maintain healthy contact with others is a crucial way of nurturing our emotional life and an excellent way of expressing gratitude . We don’t always need a turkey and pumpkin pie to do it with!
- Raking, Closing & Putting Away: October is the month for raking leaves, and pool/pond closings, putting flower beds and vegetable gardens to rest, and storing outdoor furniture away for the winter ahead. Such physical activity is good for us - the fall clean-up and touch of hands to the ground. “To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven,” writes the philosopher Ecclesiastes. Our emotional life is stabilized with rituals, routines, and aligning ourselves with the seasonal cycle of nature.
- Hallowe’en: The month ends with this strange ritual of carved pumpkins, costumed children at the door, and the exchange of “trick or treat” for a gift of candy. No matter what your way of marking (or not marking) this event, there is no mistaking the value of children, playfulness, and gifts for our emotional health. Nurturing the ‘child’ within, finding opportunities for creative play, and freely giving of ourselves are good for us emotionally.
Change, harvest, Thanksgiving, fall endings, and Hallowe’en rituals - there is much in the month of October to nourish our emotional life.