Thankful for Autumn! Sr. Raphaela

I love this time of the year! We have returned to standard time and my circadian rhythms are able to breathe easier again. I experience the invigorating crispness of the clear darkness of early morning, steam coming from my mouth and nose as I take the bin of used coffee grounds out to the compost.

The majority of the leaves have fallen to the ground, allowing the deciduous trees to show off their sculpted, naked physiques. Since the leaves are attending to their seasonal sabbatical from their spring-and-summer natural sound barrier task, I can hear the clarity of the Abbey bell calling the monks to morning prayer a mile away—amidst the rumblings of the much nearer freeway.

A beauty of their own--bare trees

Heralding the arrival of the early morning Amtrak train, the familiar sound of a double-tapped train horn travels through the air and fills my ears. The Towhee scraping and rooting for insects underneath the grounded leaves sounds like a large animal poking around outside my bedroom window.

Profound contemplation seems so easy to enter into during this time of year. My human sensations seem to be amplified with the decrease of temperature in our natural environment. Even the sun, who continues to make appearances--sometimes for the entire day--is a noticeably colder sun than before.

Contemplating the expanding distance between the sun and the earth, as the earth travels its well-worn elliptical orbit around the sun, the cosmos and my miniscule heartbeat within it becomes an exhilarating lectio of imagery. Pulsating, beating, breathing not only around me but through me and within me.

Telling and poignant at this time of year is this feature of human beings: we have devised only measurements of light (in lumens) and heat (in temperature). We measure cold as an absence of heat, and darkness as an absence of light. During this season of shortening daylight, as we deeply listen to the earth’s temperature drop, we are contemplating the absence of the sun’s heat and light. What do you experience as you listen deeply, contemplatively, to what is missing, to what is absent? Does a new experience fill its place?

Just a few golden yellow ones left hanging

The amount of “tree clothing” left on the ground is immense and overwhelming. Heroic efforts of carloads of St. Martin’s University students, numerous trailer-loads taken to the dump by our Oblate Brian Peterson, and many contemplative hours of raking by our guest Sisters Baptista and Redempta have barely tamed the leaf-diving onslaught in our parking lot.

The joy of coming together each year, to again attempt to wrangle this familiar seasonal challenge, greatly outweighs the reality of how futile we know our task to be. Investing in the challenge and contemplation of this time of year is important to me because it is so fleeting. Soon the heat of the sun will dissipate even more before penetrating the earth’s atmosphere, and the colder temperatures will freeze the rain and produce snow, creating yet another sensory complexity worthy of my investment of time, attention and contemplation.

Blessings on your Thanksgiving--and on your awareness and contemplation of this season!


Thanks be to God for the harvest...




  • Comment posted by Janice J. Ariza on November 28, 2023 at 10:22AM (3 months ago)

    This was a wonderful read. Poetic and beautiful - fleeting is this time and we do try to make sense of the absence of heat and light. The peacefulness of that absence soothes the soul.
    Thank you, Sr. Raphaela.

  • Comment posted by Sr. Dorothy on November 25, 2023 at 11:08AM (3 months ago)

    I enjoyed the poetry of your prose, Sr. Raphaela!

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