Autumn light is magical, and transformative


One day the sun shall shine…into our minds and hearts, and light up our whole lives with a great awakening light, as warm and serene and golden as a bankside in autumn.

Henry David Thoreau

She stepped down from the bus into the hard brilliance of a late afternoon in autumn…

Jan Cox Speas

There are certain experiences that are forever contained within the vaults of our permanent memories. Oftentimes, they are memories that are derived from, or situated in, times of either great exaltation and happiness, or, conversely, they have come from the deepest valleys of despair and depression we have ever wandered through, seeking some sort of relief, healing or redemption.

At this time of year, as now when I am writing this, Autumn, with its lower angle of the sun’s light, casts an indescribably mellow, rich and also brilliant glow over the land each late afternoon. I am acutely aware of this magical, or perhaps even mystical autumn light, tracing my conscious awareness of it back to one particular late October afternoon in 1994.

I was returning from Columbia SC to Sumter, 45 miles distant, after yet another I’ll-fated visit with a doctor who was recommended to help me with the depression I had been struggling with for a year, unemployed and heavily dependent on a benzodiazepine sedative.

Each day from morning until the merciful release into sedative-induced sleep, was one long, unrelenting struggle to keep hope alive when there seemed to be no way out.

When in such a protracted, depressed state of mind, there is no joy, or even the slightest pleasure in things we take for granted, such as a good meal, or any meal actually, hobbies or pastimes, or being with friends and loved ones. There is a total inability to read or concentrate on anything, just endless ruminating on why this has happened, what ifs, and dead-end, negative thoughts, because at the time that’s all you can think of. It takes over every aspect of your life.

On that drive from Columbia to Sumter, along a highway I had traveled many times before, I looked out the window and saw woods and fields sprinkled with fall colors, but more astonishing they were bathed in an ethereally clear and perfect light that seemed to my depression-numbed eyes the most beautiful thing I’d ever beheld. But rather then feel happy and grateful for this insight and experience that I had never truly known before, I was saddened with the deepest longing to be free of the torments of depression, even as I knew instinctively that this was one of those experiences that, while I couldn’t appreciate it at the time, was a harbinger of healing. That actually occurred two months later when I finally got a job and therapy and meds that lifted me out of that long period of darkness. And, it was that unforgettable, autumn-lit countryside on a road in the very middle of South Carolina, that foretold the future: to be able to resume living at last.

I wrote this in my journal 20 years ago, unknowingly describing for the first time, that exact epiphany from 1994:

There is someting about the light in autumn that surrounds me on warm golden days with clear blue skies, as happened yesterday in Charleston. Everything seems bathed in pure light. The skies are so crystal blue that I could imagine seeing beyond to the universe outside, or within myself, to the multiple universes that wait to be discovered. The universe of mind.

Sometimes, the outer and inner converge. As I was rocking on the porch the other day on a late October afternoon just as the sun was entering its final phase of illumination, a very fleeting revelation of peace and well-being came over me. Just for a few seconds. I cannot really describe it, try as I might. One could call it a faint apprehension of timelessness, of eternity. But then it was gone. It was gone in the flickering minutes when that golden light waned and disappeared, and the afternoon began to descend into evening.

Years ago in the late 1980s, I bought a Ray Lynch album titled “The Sky of Mind,” and looking back and thinking about that music, I can occasionally understand what he was referring to. The sky is a reflection of my mind and heart, if I want it to be. This morning the sun is barely wedging through the clouds. It started to appear as what I imagined was a faint light in back of the oak tree. When I went to the window, it was gone. Then, there are days when the sky is filled with clouds of unimaginably diverse and beautiful shapes and sizes, sailing away in great puffs of wind, or steady currents. Or sunsets when cirrus clouds offer bands of color across the sky. It’s always different.

While the ocean’s horizon seems infinite, but is not, the sky has no upper limits. And that is why I am always looking at the sky when I am outdoors, and why I often turn my head to the window a few feet from where I sit now to gaze at the small patch of sky that I see from my indoor sanctuary.

The sky may be gray for hours or days on end, but my perception of it is never the same. From moment to moment, or hour to hour. So when contemplating the sky, one is truly living in the present, the Now. In the “sky of mind,” there is no past and no futurre. Only the present.

Recently, Eckhart Tolle said this to an interviewer:

Whatever you do, think, or feel can happen only in the present moment…If you live in such a way that you continuously deny the present moment, it means that you deny life itself, because life is inseparable from the Now… The past is a memory of a former Now; the future is a mental projection of an expected Now. Stricktly speaking, nothing ever happened in the past; it happened in the Now. Nor will anything happen in the future; it will happen in the Now. It sounds almost simplistic or meaningless, and yet there is a deep truth in it: that life and the Now are one.

That’s very much what I experienced that long ago October afternoon in 1994 when the mystical light of autumn made the world seem unearthly beautiful, for a short time, while I was in the precious moments of the present, the Now.

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November 10, 2023

You articulated one of the reasons I love the Fall.  The light.  The beauty in the passing.  The Knowing that it is all for the good.  The brilliant blue sky.  And the sweaters.  🙂


November 12, 2023

@onlysujema How beautifully you capture the season and its moods!  Fall is indeed the most notable season of passing.  Great changes occur in the Autumn landscape! I try to carefully observe them and learn, and each year the cycle repeats.