I’m thinking about autumn. I’m thinking about how the leaves paint and brighten the sky, how foliage rainbows reign everywhere, in the azure blue above, in the yellows and oranges, in the burning-bush reds, and how, as poet Mary Oliver wrote, “Look, the trees are turning their own bodies into pillars of light, are giving off the rich fragrance of cinnamon….” The beauty of mid-fall. And I am thinking how late-fall has arrived at what we call “beyond peak.” Does judgment arise in the phrase, “beyond peak?” As if peak or peaked spells life and excitement, and beyond peak means nature’s death and it’s all downhill from here?
I remember being a kid and Dad raking piles, not so much to get them fixed in any way and out of the yard, but for us to jump on and then in. I didn’t have the concept of peak, but leaping into the leaves was peak for me in this multi-colored season. I also loved leaving my house on Wadsworth St and skipping or hopping to Nathan Clifford school with my brother Mark as we swished and crunched the leaves on the way. At age eight, I liked the sound of crackling underfoot better than trees at peak.
So, I wonder about judgment, how we decide what’s good and what’s not good, what’s pretty and what’s not pretty, what’s a peak experience and what isn’t, what’s alive, what’s dying. My “peak moment” judgment as a kid—flying into and walking among the leaves– morphed into my grown-up opinion that spectacular colors on deciduous trees make me the happiest, which then turned into, “I hate raking leaves.” So, judgment is just opinion, preference. And opinions, preferences and judgments, like seasons, can transform, in fact, constantly transform.
Here’s novelist Henry Miller: “All is creation. All is change. All is flux. All is metamorphosis.”
And I wonder, then, about the possibility of fluxing out of our judgments, as offered by the thirteenth century mystic Rumi?
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn’t make any sense.
So, what if our judgment of “each other,” —say, people whose natural pigment is more cinnamon than ours, of people with skin colors like autumn reds or browns— are only opinions? And what if we could change these opinions? How would we do that?
Maybe we walk among them. Maybe we jump in. Maybe we get to know one real asylum seeker, one actual immigrant, or one of those other “others.” Maybe we strike up a friendly, casual conversation in line at Hannaford with someone, anyone we might label “other.” Could we imagine that we stand in Rumi’s “out beyond ideas” field? What if we commit, we promise, to meet there?
Maybe we volunteer in an agency, with actual people, and not only donate much-needed money. I’m talking about flesh, about bodies, about real, living human beings. What if we stretched, the way our arms did when we angel-winged our way onto and into leaf piles? What if we stretched beyond green leaves and white skin? What if we suspend our opinions as we suspended ourselves in the air those moments before we landed in autumn’s gift? What if we drop fixed judgments, like fall leaves drop, and let them transmute into a soul-field of compassion?