The weather in this town is a betrayal of my religious sensibilities. It’s all bright and warm and sunny without ceasing.
This is the Land of Perpetual Summer.
This town resists death at all costs; be that the death of youth, the death of popularity, the death of green. Death is frowned upon in Los Angeles.
This town is in denial of Autumn.
Autumn is my favorite season. It’s just cold enough for two shirts, but not so cold that you can’t enjoy an evening walk through the neighborhood, through the urban grove, sharing in the soft, gold-filtered light.
I find comfort in the dying. It relieves the pressure to be beautiful, to be productive. I need not grow these leaves anymore, says the tree. I can rest. I can go out in a blaze of red-purple-yellow glory, and then be still for a time.
There are orange and amber leaf decals on the windows of the local Starbucks on Santa Monica Boulevard. They approximate Autumn. They are the simulacrum of a season, but they come nowhere close to touching on it’s meaning, or its majesty.
I’m in a town that does not rest. It persists with a fierceness that runs contrary to the sentiments of Autumn. Fall is a time to make tea or soup, and to remember the comforts of flannel and fire. At least, that’s what the season is in my imagination. It is a time where the world, herself, slows down the pace of our movement, and we are given more time to be in the dark, to be in meditation, in contemplation, in prayer as we understand prayer.
Autumn is misunderstood, as is the darkness. It is a gift to be given reason to stop moving in a frantic world. Autumn provides us with that gift.
Los Angeles is always at work, always in preparation for the next season of television shows, of fashion lines, of press releases and album releases. The sense of season is so different here; so fixed in movement and the creation of things, and consumerism. Everyone’s always jumping ahead, planning for two seasons forward, getting a good start on next year’s holidays, on a new collection of Spring beachwear, on anything but what is happening right now — stillness, release, beautiful dying.
It’s curious to be a wandering Druid in this concrete city, trying to keep mind of what is natural in the midst of what is not. One has to start accepting nature as omni-present; available and existing in even the starkest, most man-made environments. There is no part of the Earth that is not a part of the Earth, after all.
Even here, in Los Angeles.
The equinox provides us an opportunity to re-examine ourselves and take a closer look at our place in the world. I had cause to ask myself recently, “What is it to be a Druid, anyway? What is it to feel aligned with aspects of a distant culture and yet be completely rooted in modernity (or post, or ex-post-modernity)? When I walk through the city in my wingtip shoes and black bluejeans, how am I like the Druids dancing at the foot of The Long Man of Wilmington? How are we the same? How are we different?”
My mind drifts to the British Isles on the Equinox.
Alban Elfed, a phrase loosely translated to mean, “The Light Of Water,” is used in many Druid traditions to name the celebration of the Autumn Equinox. Druid teachings and titles can be cryptic poetry, for sure. It is a mystery tradition, after all. But today, in this foreign place, where the flowers continue to bloom and the mountain side shows no sign of letting go of the light, I read something different into the Welsh words.
I read “Light of Water,” and I look outside at the swimming pool, quintessentially Los Angeles, drenched in morning sun and shimmering beneath a thin steam, and I see in that interaction of heat and cold, of pale yellow light and deep blue darkness, a message that Autumn is here, regardless of what Los Angeles thinks. The shift of the world happens even when we pay it no mind; a power so great as to lead one to reverent worship.
Harvest Home, Indeed.
I board a plane today and return home, and this seems perfectly timed to occur on the Autumn Equinox. The sense of returning back to our dens, to our hearth, is symbolic of the season. Autumn is a time to savor the dying sun, to relish the mid-day warmth, to walk through the world in layers, and then to return home and prepare.
The season of deep reflection is upon us. Take a moment to think about the meaning of Autumn. If the colors are already changing around you, gaze at them. If you’re in a place where there is little outward change, imagine what subtle signs you can sense in the atmosphere, in your body, that point to the shift.
Take these thoughts and emotions and, if you are willing, put them together as a poem or short verse and post them in the Bishop In The Grove comment section. If you have your own blog, post them there, and then share a link with us here. The words need not rhyme, and you don’t have to explain why they are relevant to you, unless you feel moved to do so.
It would be an honor to share in your experience of the Autumn Equinox.
May the Awen flow through you on this blessed day.
16 responses to “A Druid in Los Angeles on the Autumn Equinox”
This is beautiful, Teo. Some trees are shedding some leaves, but not a lot of color change just yet. I think I’m experiencing Autumn on the inside for right now.
I hope your the change of colors, whenever it happens, does your heart good, Lisa.
The colours have just started here in Maine.
The weather is above-average, 75 or so, but the cool crisp nights and cold drizzle make up for that.
There has been a first frost in the mountain valleys, and the squirrels, skunks, and raccoons have been making ready with their hoards. The skippers have lost most of their spots and the young bucks have their first set of antlers barely poking out of their tawny fur. The geese and ducks and turkeys are on the move, heading south, and following them are the summer folk, retreating before the Arctic winds howl down from the Canadian hills and taiga.
The nights are down in the 40s, and the air gets so still that each and every star shines like a brilliant point of ice.
There is fog every morning, and sounds get so muffled you can’t hear the truck down the street, but the train whistle sounds like a fog horn from a distant lighthouse over the harbour.
There was a lot of magic in the air here on the Equinox.
That sounds beautiful, Eran. Thank you for sharing. I’ve never been to Maine, but I’m thinking about it now!
I think it is funny that Pagans of all people should bemoan the alleged season-less-ness of Los Angeles. Granted it may not fit the strict definition of the classical four seasons but isn’t part of the point of Paganism trying to become one with the local seasonal rhythms? The decorations in stores might seem cheesy, and they are, but not because they’re unnatural man-made approximations of nature. They’re cheesy because they’re missing the point.
When I go out to the beach here in Honolulu I look up at the sky and I still see the sun changing his path in the sky. The stars continue to dance around the global in a great circle of renewal. The moon and ocean still grip one another and make love as always. There may not be snow on the beach come Yule but snow isn’t the making or breaking of Yule. The sacred drama of Life still plays out in tide pools and in the sea. The Islands Themselves are born of a great upheaval of Fire and Earth. There are still the tell tale signs of this great cycle that we would all benefit from attuning ourselves to.
When the tourists come in I know that life is continuing onward and it’s a boon, albeit a often times annoying one, to economic fertility. To me at least, the tents on the beach blend with the stars and the people who live here, or even just come to visit, belong just as much as the birds and the trees, and yes even the skyscrapers. Because it’s all natural. The tall buildings are constructed, have a lifetime of usefulness, are demolished, and sometimes the materials that were used to make them are reborn into something new. You can’t tell me they don’t uphold our weight as often as the Earth Herself.
As for LA you need look no further than the remaking of Charlie’s Angels to know that birth-life-death-and-shameless-rebirth happen even in a city perpetually basking in Her own youth. 😉
Have a great Autumn and remember to pay Nature Her due where ever She lives: Everywhere.
“…isn’t part of the point of Paganism trying to become one with the local seasonal rhythms?”
Yes. And, perhaps behind my post is evidence that I have a hard time with this in certain places. The key phrase here is, “trying to become”. In my experience, bemoaning can be a necessary (although somewhat unattractive) part of the process.
You may be right that all things are natural, but perhaps some things are more or less “natural” than others. More or less living, perhaps?
I’m curious, Jack, if you see a spirit in all things. Do you consider yourself an animist?
Thank you so much for your comment. I really appreciate hearing your voice in the conversation.
“The key phrase here is, “trying to become”. In my experience, bemoaning can be a necessary…”
Fair enough. To each their own process. 🙂
“…perhaps some things are more or less “natural” than others. More or less living, perhaps?”
I’ve come to define “natural” as “if it exists it’s natural and has a spiritual equivalent in Otherworld” because in my experience that’s exactly the case. Every blade of grass, every grain of sand, even the non-human bacteria in your gut that helps you digest food, has a spirit. Even oil company executives have spirits. 😉
“Do you consider yourself an animist?”
In light of the above view I don’t see how I couldn’t.
Have a good week.
I like the way you think, Jack. Thanks for sharing your thoughts here. I hope to hear your voice more often.
Here in North Carolina, we’re blessed with that most magickal of seasons, a true autumn! It’s my favorite, and I like what you said about resting, the dying. Maybe that’s morbid, but it doesn’t feel that way. It feels sacred. The leaves are turning, and although the days are still warm (even hot), the air has a nip and the nights are cool, especially in the mountains. Now it’s time to enjoy some warm toast and apple butter!
I’ll have you know, Wes, that this comment inspired me to go out and pick up a jar of apple butter. My family thanks you!
Thanks for the comment, and for sharing your experience of Autumn.
I spent my early childhood in Brooklyn…and always loved the changing of the seasons, but especially Autumn. We relocated to Southern Cal when I was 10, and our first Christmas was over 90 degrees…and I felt sooo out of sorts. There was always something missing in the years , some 30 of them, that I spent in that perpetual state of Summer/Spring. When I moved to West Virginia 9 years ago, that first Autumn was like an awakening…I’ll never be without it again…
Thank you for sharing your thoughts, and allowing me to share mine!
I appreciate you sharing your story. Thank you!
It is amazing, isn’t it, how powerful a season can be – especially when it’s missing. I hope you have a blessed, breathtaking beginning of the Autumn season.
I’m not poetically inclined, I’m afraid, but I have similar issues being a Druid (OBOD) in New Orleans. The heat is down a notch, but it’s still HOT here–if the days weren’t shorter, we might not even notice the change of seasons. Some of the trees notice, and start to get kind of a sickly yellow and drop leaves–we rarely have the blazes of color–and I always briefly wonder what’s wrong with them before I remember the season. And in a strange “this sure isn’t Britain” twist, it’s actually the *beginning* of our “cool season” gardening period–time to plant greens and root vegetables and broccoli. We’re past the peak of hurricane season, but still need to keep half an eye on the Gulf, just in case. Very, very different here in semi-urban-sub-tropical-land, and I’m doing my best to learn and work with the rhythms that I’m actually embedded in while I celebrate seasons honoring an entirely different climate.
Thank you for the comment, Nicole. Happy to hear from a fellow OBOD member.
I wonder if we should really expect ourselves to celebrate as our British counterparts would, being that the world around us is actually behaving differently theirs is? Perhaps part of our regional expressions of Druidry would be to form ritual around our individual experiences of the season. That might better honor the Earth, and allow us to feel a more personal connection to it.
Does that make sense?
Chiming back in a bit late here… 🙂 Yes, absolutely! I think we can easily keep the eightfold year but alter our rituals etc as needed to pay attention to what’s actually happening. Our grove uses standard OBOD rituals but we work in references to what’s actually blooming/ripening around here at the time and to what’s really happening with the seasons (and a couple of years ago we gave ourselves permission to just give up and have Lughnasadh indoors! :)). Our spring really gets underway at Imbolc, not Alban Eiler (Ostara), it storms nearly every day for several weeks after Alban Hefin (Litha), Yule is citrus season, etc.
It’s been 70 degrees here all of a sudden the last few days after it was 90ish all last week. I keep finding myself amazed at how “cold” it is, and then have a good laugh at myself. 😉
I would take 70 over 90 any day! Thanks for sharing with us what you and your grove do in ritual. I appreciate the insight, and your approach makes perfect sense to me.
Bright blessings to you and your grove mates!