Khizāñ – the autumn years

Autumn is my favorite time of the year.  I like the Fall for several reasons.  The weather starts to take on a crisp, fresh feel.  Nature bursts forth in all its glory and it is a treat to be outdoors, whether driving through the countryside or hiking with friends and family to “watch the Fall colors”.  Long walks through trails, breathing the invigorating scent of fir and spruce trees infused with the damp, earthy smell of freshly fallen leaves and pine cones.  Harvesting fruits and baking pies.  Autumn months also bring in a host of festivals – Halloween, Dussehra, festivals of lights like Diwali and Chanukah and other celebratory events of many different faiths and communities, leading right up to Christmas.

Around this time last year, an aunt came over from India to the US and Canada specially to enjoy the spectacle of the foliage changing colours.  She left, disappointed because the leaves just went from green to brown and there was very little colour.  This year though, has been spectacular.  The colour-burst is – like the lull before the kettle boils over and lets out a screaming whistle – a final hurrah before nature starts to shut itself down ahead of the cold winter months.

It is the time of the year when nature reminds us that once again, a life cycle is ending.  Trees begin to shed leaves, flowers and shrubs slowly wither away and all that we have nurtured in the gardens around us starts to disintegrate.  Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.  It is a time for introspection, but not sadness.  The Dalai Lama says, “When the days become longer and there is more sunshine, the grass becomes fresh and, consequently, we feel very happy.  On the other hand, in autumn, one leaf falls down and another leaf falls down. The beautiful plants become as if dead and we do not feel very happy. Why? I think it is because deep down our human nature likes construction, and does not like destruction.”

Fallen leaves turning to compost today will soon be back again in the spring.

A Zen master pointed to a heap of manure and asked his pupil, “What do you see?”
“I see cow dung and compost, O Master” replied the student.
“Your vision is lacking. Can you not see the blooming flowers and the succulent vegetables that lie buried within that heap?” admonished his master.

Like the leaves falling off the trees one by one, friends and family members depart, some go away never to return.  New friends and young family members arrive.  While the voids may never be filled entirely, the cycle of nature and life continues.

As I approach my autumn years, it is timely to reflect on the following verse by Nasir Kazmi:

Hādsa hai ki ḳhizāñ se pahle … Such is the occurrence/mishap that before (the advent of) autumn/old age …
… bū-e-gul gul se judā hotī hai


… The flower’s fragrance departs from (deserts) the flower


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