For today’s image in celebration of the creation I’ve chosen this one depicting the glory of Autumn colours, which I captured at Virginia Water near Windsor.
The colour change of the leaves no doubt serves the survival of deciduous trees through Winter in temperate latitudes, though scientists are still researching the exact mechanisms and reasons for it. Yet it is another example of a phenomenon in the creation which as humans we may experience simply as a gift, for its beauty and capacity to lift our spirits.
In human cultures and civilizations which have thrived in the temperate latitudes of the earth and which experience the four seasons, the natural cycle of the year has symbolised spiritual truths. In Jewish and Christian faiths especially the eternal round of the seasons has expressed the divine character, the never-failing faithfulness of God. The arrival of Autumn, heralding the cold and dark to come with Winter, has provoked reflection on mortality, and the search for deeper, more enduring, sources of sustenance for the human spirit than can be provided in the natural world alone.
In western Christian tradition the turn to the final declining quarter of the year has been marked by the feast of St Michael and All Angels (29th September). Roughly coinciding in the northern hemisphere with the Autumn equinox when the nights become longer than the days, it commemorates an ancient story of the victory of the angels of God over the forces of evil, and so holds out belief in the ultimate inability of fear and evil to overcome courage and love in human destiny.
The seasonal cycle in temperate latitudes is the necessary outcome of an astronomical phenomenon, the orbit of the Earth around the sun combined with the angle of incline of the Earth’s axis. Nonetheless the seasonal pattern appears to be shifting in response to climate change. The trend observed by global networks of nature watchers has been for Spring to be starting earlier and Autumn later. This may seem cheerful news for those who prefer summer to winter but it will have unpredictable, disruptive effects on ecological systems and habitats, impacting vulnerable landscapes and species, and placing at risk supplies of food and water in certain areas.
The claiming of resources of courage and love to combat, and ameliorate, the impact of climate change is perhaps the new fearlessness to which the gorgeous colours of Autumn might inspire us.