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LETTER: A season of thanks and thoughtfulness

['This photo of sugar maple leaves was taken in autumn when the colours are at their most spectacular.']
A sugar maple in all its autumn splendour. — SaltWire Network file photo

As John Keats tramped the English countryside on a Sunday afternoon in 1819, his mind filled with images as he delighted in the beauty around him. On returning home he wrote the poem “To Autumn”:

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness!

Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;

Conspiring with him how to load and bless

With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;

Autumn is the season of bounty. In autumn we harvest our vegetables, fruit and berries, and we hunt game. We bottle or can pickles, beet and jams. We bake jam tarts and pudding, and cook Jigg’s dinner with new vegetables. autumn is the time to rake leaves, store wood and dry fish. In autumn the days get shorter, hurricanes are frequent and birds migrate south. It includes Hallowe’en, Guy Fawkes and fall fairs. For some it is the World Series, Oktoberfest or St. Nicholas.

St. Francis captures the mood of autumn in these words: “Be praised, my Lord, for Sister Earth, our Mother, who nourishes us and sustains us, bringing forth fruits and vegetables of many kind, and flowers of many colours.”

Autumn is the season of thanksgiving. We celebrate Thanksgiving Day in gratitude for the gifts we receive from nature or a power greater than ourselves. Giving thanks at the time of harvest probably goes back to our first ancestors and we find its expression in many cultures. In Christianity, Ember Days go back for centuries. On three days at the beginning of each of the seasons, prayer is offered to thank God for the gifts of nature, to make use of them in moderation and to assist those in need.

Obviously, we don’t limit thanksgiving to once a year, and some of us make it a daily practice. In this we recognize and appreciate the good in our lives. True thanksgiving includes generosity as we share our blessings with each other. The wealth Canada enjoy can be shared more generously with parts of the world where there is so much poverty — and within our own country. We can also welcome more immigrants to share our prosperity.

Autumn is a season of beauty. We are presented with a slide-show reflecting all the colours of the rainbow.

Autumn is a time of remembrance. Since 1919, Nov. 11 has been observed in memory of those who lost their lives in the Great War, and in subsequent wars. Remembering the dead is a practice we find in all cultures, often with a religious flavour. For Christians, All Saints and All Souls days (Nov. 1, 2) provides an opportunity to remember the dead and our relationship with them. It can give us pause to reflect on our own death and what may follow.

Autumn is a season of beauty. We are presented with a slide-show reflecting all the colours of the rainbow. As one hymn declares, “All things bright and beautiful… each radiant flower that opens, each vibrant bird that sings…” This beauty can arouse in us feelings of wonder and awe, and inspire songs of praise. We can sing along with Louis Armstrong, “What a Wonderful World.”

This response to the world’s beauty is often short-lived. We are conditioned to treat nature as our own and to exploit it for our personal use. Our relationship with the environment is dysfunctional. The dire consequence of this attitude and behaviour is becoming clearer. We need another vision. There are those, like Indigenous peoples, who treat the land as sacred and include reverence for creation in their spirituality. St. Francis had a similar relationship with nature, seeing all creatures as brothers and sisters.

We need to examine our relationship with the rest of creation, to see other life forms as partners, not our slaves. We can learn from traditions that teach that all creation praises its creator. The grim reality is that the earth can exist without us but we cannot exist without it.

Christians now observe the Season of Creation (Sept. 1 to Oct. 4) as a time to renew our relationship with our creator and all creatures though repenting, repairing and rejoicing together. Our relationship with each other and with creation needs healing, and the two go together.

Everett Hobbs

Conception Bay South

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