My husband, six year old daughter, and I took a walk through the woods and farmland of the Brandywine Valley this afternoon. The sky was cloudless and blue; the air summer warm. But tan fields of dry corn stalks, the first yellow leaves spiraling down, and high honking Vs of geese heading south left no doubt that Autumn is here.
Ramsey Farm's tractors rumble and bump up and down the hills dropping families off at the pumpkin fields. This is my favorite season of the year because is stands between. It is the ripened fruit on the withering plant. It is a time of transition and transformation.
Today the woods brought this lesson home. As we began our walk, we stopped to look at a Black Rat Snake sharing the trail and enjoying a patch of sunlight. I explained to out little girl that soon it would grow cold and the snake would find a hollow log, a burrow, or even a space under our wood pile where it would spend the winter hibernating.
We too are basking in the sunlight of this warm day. Enjoying it all the more because we know that soon the warmth will depart.
Towards the end of our walk, I found a snake skin on the trail. I held it in the palm of my hand and felt the tingle of its residual energy. I explained that the old skin had become too small and maybe too full of parasites --that the process of shedding old skin takes work, but that the snake emerges with a beautiful new skin and travels on leavening the old skin behind.
Just as we neared the small parking lot, our daughter exclaimed, "Eew mommy! Poor possum!"
A small possum lay on the side of the trail where the tractor had cleared underbrush. As we stepped around it, we talked a little about the natural cycle of endings and beginnings--the possum would return to the earth, but in the spring new baby possums would be born.
Through nature walks and observance of nature based spirituality, our six-year old daughter knows that there is a cycle--that every living thing is born, changes, and will someday die. As she moves toward the light, cuddles her doll and talks about kindergarten, the cycle isn't something she dwells upon--nor would we want her to do so. But as middle-ages adults, we carry and accept this reminder that we are all blessed and bound into this cycle; that death leads to rebirth; darkness to light, and that we all shift from one existence into another.