“I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” ― L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gab
Updated: Feb 6, 2019
Fall is sneaking in. I feel it in the cool air and the strange moisture, I see it in the brightly changing leaves. My skin can tell summer is coming to an end and it’s filled with both excitement and longing. Fall always makes me feel poetic and inward. Maybe it’s the transition, or the colors, or the faint hopeless hope that maybe summer will win this time.
Here is what I think is uncomfortable about them. You are leaving one familiar thing, you are leaving home - but you are not quite onto the other thing yet so there is this space, this quiet, this homeless void that takes a little, or sometimes a lot of, courage to navigate. The requirement is to trust - to move forward into the darkness, not knowing the outcome. I would like to learn how to thrive in that void. Sometimes it feels like an impossible dragon to me.
Why a dragon? Let me fill you in here if you have never heard the story of St George and the Dragon.
The ancient tale goes a little something like this:
There is a dragon - a horrible thing that is destroying the countryside. I mean she is really wreaking havoc, burning down entire forests with one breath of fire, devouring villages -men, women and children - and then having their cows and lambs for dessert. No one can stop her. She’s angry and wild and killing everything.
And there’s a king - with lots of soldiers and advisors - this king and his advisor come up with the bright idea to approach the dragon with a deal - “Hey Dragon, if we give you one virgin maiden a day (I know...always a virgin maiden right?) will you leave the rest of us alone?”
The contract - Now this dragon doesn’t have to agree to this, she could just go on destroying things left and right and eating what and whenever she damn well pleases, but she agrees. She agrees because she sees the psychological torture of it all. She sees how it will torture the entire kingdom to have to choose a beloved girl each month. The dragon sees that this would cause far more crippling, long term and lasting suffering. She sees how it will probably end up turning them all against each other as well in the end. Yes this will do quite nicely. True evil here.
The crisis - So times get dark and fearful as each day another young maiden is chosen to sacrifice herself for the kingdom. Some go quietly - most are forced. But no matter, each day the dragon gets another victim whom she licks up and swallows with relish, breaking the hearts of the people
of the countryside.
Enter now.... The Princess - Of course the day comes when the King’s own daughter is chosen - he doesn't want her to go - he starts to make more deals, he’s desperate... but the people are enraged, “King, you didn't make these deals when OUR daughter’s lives were on the line.”
The Princess understands this and bravely goes forth without even one look back at her grieving, groveling father.
Here enters a knight who has been in love with the Princess from the first day he saw her. Her true love watches her go and his heart breaks and flames all at once (of course there had to be some romance in the story- right?) He hops upon his mighty steed and catches up to her. The two of them ride off together toward the dragon. Toward the unknown. Toward the darkness.
They have left the castle but have not yet arrived at the dragon’s lair. The in-between time. The void. Now what? Don’t worry.
There’s a powerful Angel. On their way Archangel Michael appears in a beam of loving light and bestows their horse, their armor and their sword with a great power never before known to human kind. This is what we now call Iron. The Archangel makes it course through their veins, emboldens their armor and strengthens their swords.
There’s the battle - With this new found strength and courage they battle the dragon in a mighty fight. The horse moves faster, they feel stronger and the armor protects them better than ever before. Finally the emblazoned sword conquers the dragon and they bring her to her knees. In some tales they slice off her head with the iron sword, in others they slice off tiny pieces of her until they tame her and she comes to help rebuild all the places she has destroyed. Regardless of how you slice it...
There is a new beginning - After the Dragon is tamed or killed or conquered (choose your own adventure!) they return heroes and build a whole new kingdom for themselves. Honoring where they have been, they seed their new culture with the wisdom, strength and courage that the journey into the fear, into the darkness, into the void, created.
This story is often told at Michaelmas in Autumn because the ideas is: every Autumn we all get a chance to transition out of some old imprisoned way of living or feeling or thinking. Whatever that might be for you as an individual at this particular point in time - now is the time to battle your own inner dragon.
Now is the time to leave the groveling King behind and forage a new kingdom within. As summer gives way to the windy chills of fall, we lose our carefree selves and start asking bigger, deeper questions. The cold winds themselves are asking us to identify what maidens, metaphorically speaking, are we blindly sacrificing to the fear of the unknown darkness? What do we do here?
Humans have taken many tactics and strategies at this point in the journey. Not everyone nobly walks into the distance without a glance back. One can fall into total slothdom, or fill the space with distraction and busy work. One can drink and party to excess or fall into the despair that Autumn so readily offers us all. We all have a chance to try and weasel our way out of the discomfort by making empty pacts with the universe, like the King did in our story.
We can face the darkness head on in our own lives as the Princess and her lover did. I have tried all of those other strategies, by the way, and none of them got me where I wanted to be.
Guess what did? - quiet, reflection, nature, making love and writing. Loving the journey and finding absolute bliss and peacefulness in every step along the path. Loving the contrast and the stuff I didn’t use to love. Sitting patiently with the questions pulsing in my heart. Gratitude and, oh my goodness, SO SO SO much trust in the bigger picture. I am not saying that this is what everyone should do. There is no template for navigating the great unknown. These are just the places where I take healthy refuge during my in-between times. This is just where my path on the journey into the void took me.
Where is your healthy refuge? Because you have to take some kind of refuge in these times. Where you just were - it was once a refuge of some kind and for a while it worked, but you’ve outgrown it. Summer 2018 is over. King winter is calling! Where you are headed - it’s not known yet - but it is also going to be a refuge of some kind. In the meantime though, you have to provide your own shelter. What will it be? Who will be your fortifying Angel that meets you in the woods with a secret weapon?
Personally speaking, mine is trust. Trust is my sword this fall as things are turning cold and crisp and melancholy. I have to kindle my inner fire now. I have to find the warmth and joy inside me until the power of winter overcomes and takes me into the darkest night, bringing light and understanding to the questions and longings deep within me. When I lack trust, I become jealous, manipulative and I take everything personally. When I lack trust I am protective to a flaw and fearful of loosing my young and I bite the hands that feed me. There is something of the color, smell and shape of mistrusting in me this fall and I don’t like her! She is my dragon. I don’t like feeling jealous of other people living great lives or having things that I want. I dont like feeling angry at the generosity coming my way. I don’t like wanting control over everything and everyone. But do you know what I do like? I like how awful all those things feel! That terrible feeling I get is my guide that leads me to a kingdom rid of dragons! At least for awhile!
Everything I need to go into battle this fall is right here inside me. All I have to do is remember who I am and strength comes, in waves. An energetic Iron if you will. Trust reminds me that things ALWAYS work out - without exception. Trust reminds me that the universe is on my side, and the universe wants me to be happy. Lack of trust is jealousy. Trusting is taking joy in other’s successes. Lack of trust feels victimized and left out. Trusting knows that everything comes in it’s own time and that everything is happening for a divine reason. Lack of trust tries to control and manipulate. Trusting means knowing how to go with the flow. That watery flow can tame, or drown if need be, the flames of the destructive dragon lurking in the woods.
I KNOW I am on the right path. I know that health, well being and happiness are my birth rights and I am determined to align with this truth no matter how many dragons of self doubt and lack of worth I have to battle. I know that I have already won. The iron is already inside of me. Even if yesterday looks like a lost battle, even if last week felt like a step backwards - I know I am on the right path. I know it because I feel it. I feel it in my tears and I feel it in my laughter. I feel it in the messages that come to me in the forms of “angels” every day. Songs on the radio, conversations with a neighbor, a book falling into my hands at just the right time.
This Autumn time, the weapon I choose is, I trust. I lean into the wind and I let it blow the leaves recklessly from the branches because I am not worried about their return come spring. I kindle my inner fire now. I find the warmth and joy inside me as the power of winter overcomes and takes me into the darkest night.
P.S. This picture we took this summer in Barcelona at Gaudi’s building, Casa Batllo, which depicts the story of St George and the Dragon in architecture. The windows are the skulls of the sacrificed princesses. The roof is the scaly body of the dragon with the hilt of a sword thrusting down into it. I highly recommend taking a virtual tour of the Gaudi building if you want to be absolutely blown away by his creativity and genius!