Autumn is, without a doubt, my favorite time of year.
John Keats called it the “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.” Mmm, yes. Our New Mexico skies somehow become even more astonishingly blue. The bosque turns to gold. It takes a little adjustment, sometimes, but ultimately I welcome the earlier sunsets and embrace the longer nights.
I’ve always loved back-to-school time. That figures, because I’m kind of a nerd. Even as an adult, though, while my schedule doesn’t change much with the seasons, fall retains that same feeling of returning to something. I am the heir to generations of farmers. Perhaps harvest is in my blood.
Around the Equinox, usually, I contemplate the natural balance of things. Equal hours of day and night, not too hot and not too cold. It seems sensible and harmonious. Very yin-yang, very Goldilocks — just right. I like to bask in that.
This year, though, I sort of forgot about it. We went out of town for a few days, and I only remembered the Equinox after the fact. All that gorgeous symmetry, the entire blooming world in perfect harmony — oops, was that yesterday? Missed it, there it went…
I suppose that’s an essential part of it. The fact that it’s really just a moment. The earth is exactly upright on its axis relative to the sun for but an instant. Blink, and it’s over.
The greater truth is change and movement.
As I was thinking about this fleeting seasonal symmetry, the half-and-half of autumn, I remembered a recent conversation with a friend about facial symmetry and human perceptions of beauty.
Across different cultures and throughout history, symmetrical faces generally have been considered more attractive. Up to a point. Symmetry is pretty, in a basic way. It is blandly appealing. Beauty, however, emerges in the asymmetrical. This is true in humans and flower arrangements and interior design. And it’s a really good thing, because the fact is — we’re all a little off-kilter in most ways, most of the time.
I decided to check out the symmetry (or lack thereof) of my own face. I split a straight-on photo of myself down the middle, made mirror images of the left and right sides, and put it together. My halves look pretty darned different! One side looks like the Zodiac killer, and the other a goofy nitwit.
The two parts together make a rather good-looking guy, if I do say so myself, but seeing this makes me really glad to not be exactly even-steven in the face.
It also started me questioning the ways we idealize perfect balance between other halves and halves.
We live in a world of duality — self and other, right and wrong, good and bad, us and them. At least that’s how we tend to divide it up, sort it out, process and make sense of things. And it seems like we often think of stability, equality, justice, and harmony as a precise measurement of the opposing parts. Usually, right down the middle. Fair and square.
And maybe that’s neat and tidy in a way, but it doesn’t seem very sustainable. Neither does it seem particularly natural. The earth will tilt, the scales will tip. The ultimate equilibrium continues to be a flowing, swirling thing.
On the other hand, in other situations, when we split things up into our dualities, we might think it best if it were all one way or the other. This is the lure of extreme partisanship and positionalism — considering one half entirely good and the other an unmitigated atrocity. My way or the highway, love it or leave it. Indeed, often I fall into this, certain of my rightness and sure that we’d finally experience heaven on earth if only everyone would just agree with me.
Now, though, I’m considering that this would probably be something more like choosing just one side of my own face. We’d miss out on the beauty that can only emerge in the out-of-whack Whole.
My ode to autumn this week is a celebration of balance and letting go. A balance not of stasis, but rather of rhythm. Not apportionment, but movement. Enjoying this just-right instant as a single breath that always invites sweet surrender into everything yet-to-come.
The perfection of this moment is not a thing to be held onto, but rather something perpetually released into the perfection forever becoming.
I can’t wait to be with you this Sunday, October 3. I’m excited to welcome our special musical guests, Holy Water and Whiskey! Service at 10:00am at Maple Street Dance Space. My talk will also be online Sunday evening at BOSQUECSL.ORG. XO, Drew
©2021 Drew Groves