Celebrating Autumn Equinox: A Simple Ritual of Thanksgiving

My Autumn Equinox altar.

I feel like I could say that every holiday is my favorite one when it arrives, but this year I am especially excited about Autumn Equinox, which will be on Friday, September 22nd. It has been a long, hot, smokey summer, and the return of the autumn rains here in the northwest has me ready to cozy up on the couch with my knitting, my journal, and a good book to thoroughly enjoy the cool, showery weather. I’m already feeling the pull to turn inside myself as we enter this introspective season.

Autumn Equinox is also a time of giving thanks for what we have harvested in our lives so far this year, and I like to include a ritual of gratitude during my celebrations.

For this simple ritual, you’ll need a little bowl of some small item like dried beans, dried rose hips, rice, nuts, sunflower seeds, or a grain of some kind. You want whatever you use to be large enough to pick up piece by piece, so millet or quinoa might not be the best choice! You’ll also want a small jar or another bowl to transfer the items into.

You can do this as part of a larger ritual, or this can be your whole Autumn Equinox celebration.

Light a candle and cast a circle if you would like to. Or you could sit outside to do this ritual enjoying the sights and smells of autumn.

Take a few deep breaths and center yourself. Now, pick up one bean (or whatever you are using) and say something that you are grateful for, and transfer it to the other bowl or jar. Keep going until all your items have been transferred from one bowl to the other. You may have to get creative as you go on, depending on how many items you started out with, but it will help you remember all the things you are grateful for, even things you may not think of very often like having clean water flowing from your faucets, or the fan that kept you cool through the summer heat.

I keep this “gratitude bowl” on my Autumn Equinox altar, to help remind me of all the blessings in my life, and of all that I have harvested this year, big and small.

This year, I will also be adding a small jar of rainwater to my altar in thanksgiving for the return of the rains that have helped dampen the fires that have been burning here in the west, and have cleared the air of smoke. Blessed be the rain! Blessed be fresh air!

If you’d like, you can also do the Autumn Equinox tarot spread that I shared last year.

What seasonal changes are you seeing where you live? How do you like to honor the change in seasons from summer to fall?

May you have a blessed Autumn Equinox and a blessed fall!

Highs, Lows, and a Rabbit

It has been an up-and-down couple of weeks around here. I came down with a cold that lasted over a week and lost my momentum blogging and making art. We also had a series of storms come through that brought us over nine inches of rain in about five days, so between my cold and the weather, I spent a lot of time stuck indoors.

This past Tuesday was my mom’s surgery day, and I spent the morning sending her Reiki and prayers at the healing altar I set up for her. I also drew The Star as my card of the day—hope, faith, peace, grace—such an encouraging message for the day!

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My healing altar for my mom

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A message of grace and hope

My mom came through the surgery very well, and once she was home and resting, I took advantage of finally getting over my cold and a partly sunny afternoon to get outside. Oh my gosh, how I needed that!

I went to the same park where I spent the Autumn Equinox, and was surprised to see how much higher the river was after all of the rain. The rocks I had been sitting on at the edge of the river were now mostly submerged and very far from the shore!

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That rock way out there is the one I was sitting on at the Equinox!

A couple of very nice older men came down to the river while I was there. They have been coming up every year for twenty-five years to fish for steelhead, and we marveled over how high the river was this early in the season and swapped flood stories with each other. When we started talking about birds, they told me how they had a Great Blue Heron land behind their chairs while they were fishing and demand part of their catch. If they didn’t volunteer to share, he just helped himself! They had really gotten a kick out of him and had been happy to share what they referred to as “garbage catch” with him.

I took a walk, singing songs of gratitude and blessing to myself and admiring the fall color. I also saw a large flock of wild turkeys. I felt so blessed!

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Beautiful autumn color

I spent the rest of the afternoon helping my mom, who was feeling remarkably well after her surgery. But then came a very big low—a family member accidentally hit one of the neighborhood cats as they pulled into our driveway. The neighbor he belonged to was thankfully very gracious about it (he was an outdoor cat and tended to be more of a “neighborhood cat” than a family pet), and I was frantically making phone calls to find a vet that could take him in to euthanize him because he was very badly hurt.

It was horrible. Awful. He was a favorite visitor and came to see us often for treats and attention, and we were all heartbroken and a bit traumatized. I’m still not really over it yet. It’s amazing how quickly a good day can be turned on its head, isn’t it?

But good news came yesterday—my mom is cancer free! They found no other cancer around the lump they removed or in her lymph nodes. A big, big sigh of relief and much gratitude is being felt around here!

Then last night I discovered what was obviously a pet rabbit running around in our yard. I asked my neighbor if he knew anything about it, and he said the rabbit showed up a couple of weeks ago and has been hanging out under another neighbor’s porch. This morning I talked with that neighbor about trying to catch the rabbit and take him to a shelter for adoption, and he agreed I could set up a feeding station and trap in his yard where the rabbit seems to spend most of his time. So I spent today running around buying rabbit food and renting a live trap from the animal shelter and generally trying to figure out how to catch a rabbit! Wish me luck! I’ve named the little cutie Bun Bun Nickles.

I keep thinking back to my Autumn Equinox tarot reading and how accurately it has played out so far. It has been a crazy few weeks. I’m hoping for a bit more calm from here on out. Well, once I am able to catch Bun Bun Nickles, anyway!

A Good Morning

I was on my way to a local farm stand this morning after an early appointment, but realizing that the stand wouldn’t be open for another hour, I decided to take advantage of the beautiful morning and stop for a walk at a local park that runs along the river.

It was one of those glorious late summer days when you can taste autumn in the air, a hint of sharpness in the cool of the morning. The sky was deep blue, with a few high clouds, and a haze of smoke to the south, a reminder that summer, which for us means fire season, was still having her way with us.

A man was standing on the path with his two small dogs, one a Boston Terrier that was looking longingly towards the river.

“Good morning!” I called.

He said to me, “He doesn’t want to leave. He likes to chase the jetboats and we haven’t seen any yet this morning.”

“Oh, I remember you!” I replied, “I’ve seen you here before—I remember the boat-chasing.”

I had walked a few more feet when he called back to me, “Excuse me.”

I turned around. “Did you see the deer over there?” he asked.

And there they were, a doe and her fawn, picking their way across the grass. We stood watching them in silent wonder, even the dogs didn’t make a sound. Catching sight of us, the deer began to trot across the trail and into the brush.

“They look so beautiful when the run like that,” the man said and I agreed.

“Thank you for showing me,” I told him, and continued my walk, grateful to have shared such a lovely moment with a friendly stranger.

There were lots of people out enjoying the cool morning weather after a string of very hot days. Almost everyone was smiling and friendly, “Good morning!” “Good morning!” “Good morning, God bless you!” came the greetings as I walked along the path.

I came to the little bridge over the pond where ducks and geese swim and turtles sun themselves on logs. Two older women were on the bridge, one was taking pictures.

The other woman said to me, “I don’t see any turtles today.”

I laughed because I had just been leaning over the railing looking for them myself. “Yes, that’s what I was looking for, too,” I told her.

Two Wood Ducks swam under the bridge, among the water lilies, and I took a few pictures.

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Wood Ducks and Water Lilies

I followed the trail to another bridge, a large pedestrian bridge that spans the entire Rogue River. In the autumn you can see salmon spawning in the shallows from there, but it will be another month or two before they arrive. As I began to cross, the smell of decomposition wafted up to me from the blackberries below—something dead was hidden down there. A reminder, I thought, that autumn is on the way, death coming even in the midst of this bright and life-filled day.

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The Rogue River, as seen from the bridge

As I made my way back out of the park I continued to exchange “Good morning!” greetings with everyone I met. My heart felt full, the day seemed touched with a kind of magic. It was one of those days when I felt open-hearted and connected to everyone and everything. A rare day, a beautiful day. A day for which I was filled with gratitude. These are the moments I remember and treasure, simple times of connection that become imprinted on my heart and mind.

A good morning, indeed.