The Autumn Equinox: Balance and Release

Summer ends. The death of a season doesn’t imply failure. It was full, it was everything (or it was an utter disaster, whatever), now it’s gone. Now it’s time for the next one.

“Mabon” is one of the names for the Autumn Equinox, which is today, the first day of fall. If we were recent ancients, we would begin to see our fields empty and our barns fill. Even far from the fields here in Brooklyn, the trees begin to release their leaves and the street lights wink on a little early.  Also called the “second harvest” (after the “first harvest” of early August), it’s a time of both gratitude and analysis. Solstices are extreme, celebrating the “most light” or the “most dark,” climactic moments of switching directions from one to the other.

Photo by Erin Webb

Equinoxes are the reverse – equal light and dark balance each other, producing an otherworldly equilibrium that encourages a dynamic stillness.  Paused here on the tipping point of fullness to emptiness, we hope we’ve used the light well! It’s time to gather what we’ve grown, and to channel abundance through community and generosity. Whatever our personal gains or losses, we are all in this together. We may need each other when the windows are drafty, our neighbors down with the flu and the parked cars all buried by the snowplow. It’s time to pull together everything we’ve made, to feed ourselves and others. I’m making Elderberry concoctions of Syrup and Whiskey – soaking the sunlight out of elderberries, ginger and cinnamon. When everyone gets sick, just ask me for a spoonful! Today’s abundance is tomorrow’s remedy.

The light is getting precious, meaningful. We want to savor every last minute of it while we bite that last tomato and kick fall leaves. The dark holds the “other.”  It’s an invitation to deepness, the unseen. Mysteries await, brave adventures. For some of us, looking at the aging season can feel like looking in a mirror. Can we bear what we see? Perhaps we see experience and imperfection, journeys taken, some to hell and back. If we undertake the quiet journey to the deepest part of ourselves, what might we bring back to offer the light when it comes?

Photo by Allie Dearie on Unsplash

Spring is hopeful, summer rich, but fall feels like home. The leaves fall with our fond hopes, and though we know by simple repetition that they’ll return, we’re called to take the cue of the trees and let go, to watch those lovely leaves turn surprising colors and gently come down to earth. It feels like a moment to accept the growing dark, the creeping coolness, to say yes, we’ll take that journey too, when we don’t know what’s where.

We’ll make things to nourish and warm ourselves, grateful for all the good we’ve stored up, and abide until the light grows long again. Letting go of what we wished for, we harvest what came up, then skillfully coax it to nourish us. The spiral advances incrementally. So turns the Wheel of the Year. Welcome, Fall!

By Sondra Fink

Check out Sondra’s other writing at

Elderberry Recipes for the Season

Photo of Elderberries in Prospect Park by Emma Graves

Elderberry Syrup


• Water = 2x’s Pint Mason Jar
• 1 cup of wild harvested Elderberries
• 1 tbsp Powdered Ginger
• 2 Cinnamon Sticks


Combine all ingredients except the cinnamon sticks in a large pot and bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer. Add your cinnamon sticks. Simmer until reduced by half, which should take about 45 minutes. Remove from stove and cool to room temperature. Mash with a masher or hands. Strain through cheese cloth back into your mason jar. Squeeze all the goodness from your Elderberry mixture before composting both mixture and cheese cloth. Fill the rest of your mason jar with local raw honey.

1 tbsp while well
1oz (shot glass) when exposed to cold or flu
3 to 5 tbsps a day when ill

*Take care not to over boil as it can damage plant material. Remember to take early and often to bolster the immune system and avoid contracting a cold or the flu!

Elderberry Whiskey


• 1 cup of wild harvested Elderberries
• 1 Pint Mason Jar
• Good whiskey


Cover Elderberries in mason jar with whiskey, leaving very little room at the top before capping the jar. Keep in a cool, dark place for 8 weeks. Strain into a pitcher lined with cheese cloth when ready.  Squeeze all the goodness from your Elderberry mixture before composting both mixture and Cheese Cloth. Best when bottled in small amber glass bottles with a glass dropper.

3 drops when well
5 drops when exposed to cold or flu
10 drops a day when ill

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