The Summer Ends – Marking the Autumnal Equinox at Southall

A photograph of a fire

The summer ends, and it is time to face another way. Our theme reversed, we harvest the last row to store against the cold, undo the garden that will be undone.
We grieve under the weakened sun to see all earth’s green fountains dried, and fallen all the works of light. You do not speak, and I regret this downfall of the good we sought as though the fault were mine.
I bring the plow to turn the shattering leaves and bent stems into the dark, from which they may return. At work, I see you leaving our bright land, the last cut flowers in your hand.
“The Summer Ends,” Wendell Berry

Summer put up a valiant fight, with days of seemingly relentless warm rain and requisite humidity. But on September 22, as the sun crossed the celestial equator for the second time of the year, the daybreak brought a dramatic drop in temperatures. By the time the Southall team gathered at the sundial above the orchard before sunset to mark the autumnal equinox, the clouds were parting.

As a group, we’ve embraced these gatherings that mark turns in the season. Whatever our role, we work on a farm, spending a lot of time outside with a front row seat to the elements that make each day, week, month unique. We watch the farm team break the soil in late winter, plant the seeds in early spring, toil in the boiling sun and drizzling rain, and get a chance to enjoy the bounty. Sometimes we leave our desks to work beside them, one small way to honor their labor.

On this Equinox, we welcomed a guest, local sound therapist and meditation instructor Ann Sensing. It felt appropriate, as autumn’s waning days bring a reprieve, to just stop, listen, and be grateful. From that high vantage point on the property, we can see construction progress everywhere, the built environment coming to completion. We could hear the nail guns firing, and the wind rustling loudly through the trees. Sounds which in any other circumstance might have disturbed a natural silence on this day felt like complements.

Ann led us through gentle stretches and breathing exercises, and then lay on our backs, sunshine warming our faces from the crisp breeze, fluffy clouds rolling against the brilliant sky, flocks of swallows dancing by. Slowly, eyes closed, minds cleared and muscles relaxed into the earth.

Soon, we were transported to another place, an ethereal drift in and out of consciousness, a sense of extreme comfort and peace, guided by the gentle, otherworldly sounds Ann’s expert hands generated from the crystal sound bowls, the gongs, the tuning forks, shell chimes and Shruti box.

The body is a giant ear, she told us beforehand, and the skin can hear if you allow it to listen. All sense of time melted away as we were bathed in somatic bliss – sleep, dream, joy, gratitude.

Slowly, mindfully, we reemerged into the natural world, having made a transition into the “days of darkness” to come, which we will welcome.

As the fire crackled against a spectacular sunset, we ate from the pot-luck table, acknowledging each contribution against the wonder of time and place, and the circumstances that brought us together on this land, to create Southall. What a joy it will be to share it with the world.