Are there certain pieces of music you come back to, again and again? For me, there are many. This time of year I can't help but return to Rachmaninov's Vespers. Simon-Pierre Bestion's recording with La Tempête is especially compelling.
Traditionally, Vespers is a candlelight recitation of the Psalms at dusk. In both Catholic and Orthodox traditions, Vespers holds a special place in daily prayer. Rachmaninov's contribution to this sacred ritual is immense-- the work is stripped and essential; while also being complex and layered in history and texture. As autumn falls further into winter, and the light recedes to the south, this work mirrors my inner landscape.
I crave the essential, the stripped, but I also revere the complexity in the ceremony of it all.
Each year I am guided this way into the season governed by cold and darkness-- what do I want to carry with me? What is essential? Certainly, I can't bring it all.
Gratitude, of course, tops my list. An appreciation for the season that was. The lush green come golden come red come brown foliage that will fall (any minute now!) to the ground, and return as energy for new life in spring after a long winter resting and decomposing under a thick layer of snow. Our healthy livestock, growing in winter coats and layers of nourishing fat, cued by the receding light. They are prepared for the shifts that are to come, and their biorhythms hold and protect them.
And also our community, culture, and rituals that hold and cherish this time of year for the potent and nostalgic experience that it is.
These cultural rituals connect us to the present and the past. Like Vespers, certain things exist outside of the effect of time or the impermanent nature of the here and now. These rituals ask me to step outside of the ego and embrace the humanity that grounding in tradition brings us.
Often, in today's age, we are critics of culture. Critical of all it's shortcomings and ignorance-- eager to defend all the wreckage in its wake. Certainly, there is room for this. On the other side, however, I also find myself treasuring it. Yearning for the richness-- the fullness-- of culture. A tapestry of who we are, collectively, as evidenced by our traditions and actions.
That's what I feel so deeply in my bones when I reconnect with Rachmaninov's Vespers every autumn. When the earth folds back into herself, we harvest the bounty and store it for winter. We carve pumpkins and dress in costumes to celebrate the darkness and all its mystery. We make feasts to share with friends, family, and neighbors to celebrate all we have been given in our short time on earth. We harvest pine boughs and bake delectable treats to usher in the sweetness and innocence of the return of the Everlasting Light.
And, finally, as winter officially begins, we close out the year with reflection and appreciation for the chaos of it all-- this sweet, heartbreaking, ineffable experience of living.
Some of us regard this time of year as bad-- that it's just a long delay until the joys of spring and summer again. But what if there's more than that? What if there is a deeper richness, one borne of inner exploration and an openness to what lies beyond the veil? I hear the call in Vespers: the invitation to dig deeper and connect with all those who came before me. Connecting with cultural rhythms transports me to a place of deep love and appreciation for being human, wherever that finds me.
James Sexton said recently that "...to love anything at all is deeply brave. It all ends, either in death or divorce, all love is temporary,". It choked me up, to once again become intimately aware of how precious this dynamic experience on earth really is. The "best" among us, or the "worst"; everyone is someone's child, sibling, spouse, or parent. We all hold an essential thread in this timeless tapestry. And even in a world torn apart by war, and a very uncertain future, we can still have our humanity, our compassion. Our love.
If you have the privilege to be outside these days and walk over some crumbling leaves, I invite you to reconnect with your heart, your culture, your history as we all seek to find love in this ephemeral moment in time. Perhaps it's your annual hunting trip, or a fun Halloween party with friends or neighbors. Maybe it's upcoming holiday travel to see beloved family miles and miles away. It may even be remembering cherished beloveds who are no longer with us at a time of year when we crave connecting with others.
Wherever you find yourself, my sincere hope is you can connect with the immensity of it all with the courage and bravery of loving, even though this too is temporary. Embrace your humanity with awe. It is all a divine experience.
From all the animals, pastures, and team members at Late Bloomer Ranch -- have a beautiful fall 🤍