As Claude Larre and Elisabeth Rochat de la Vallée, sinologists and Chinese Medicine scholars describe in The Secret Treatise of the Spiritual Orchid:
"To rise in order to fall, and to fall in order to rise, that makes circulation. It is so high that we cannot perceive the essence of it. It is so universal that everything, everybody, every animal and every plant is affected and is under the same natural movement of tian yun. The progression of this is seen through the four seasons [...] Spring manifests itself everywhere as some beginning of life or renewing of the beginning of life [...] Summer takes what has been started and progresses along the line up to an acme, to the highest point of that progress, and then suddenly, in order to protect life and to protect the universe, it has to reverse its movement. So on some uncertain morning in the autumn time, the quality of air is very different. It's shocking. Something has started to reverse. It means that the yin which has been there but covered, unable to manifest itself except as a hidden, sustaining power, is now able to arise in its own right." (Larre, Rochat 1992: 7)
This "uncertain morning in autumn" is upon us now and we knew it was coming. Nevertheless, it is "shocking" for our beings, just as a metallic object touches our bare skin; a certain coldness makes us contract inward. This is the effect and energetic movement of Metal, to be more inward focused and passive, more Yin.
From the 5-Element perspective, Metal is associated with the organs of Lung and Large Intestine. It is not surprising then that many of us will experience Lung and digestive themes, such as a cold/ flu or those with asthma can have a flare-up or a gastrointestinal virus (stomach flu) at this time of year. As with all the elements there is an emotion associated with Metal, it is sadness/ grief. The direction is the West, where the sun sets. Makes sense, doesn't it? The Yang, like the sun and daylight, is setting, and the Yin, the moon and night, is rising. The climate becomes dry, making our skin dry. This is that clear manifestation of the energy moving inward, no longer nourishing the most external parts of us, as with the trees. In humans, the skin and in trees, the leaves.
For me, this is a beginning of a death that will happen in winter. But through this death, comes new life next spring. Can we find beauty in death? Yes, I believe so. I look to the trees, the Japanese Maple tree, Acer palmatum, especially. We have a few in our garden. One in particular has a longer process of a "glorious death." He, I sense him as male, is green and robustly thick all summer. Then, just as that "uncertain morning in autumn" comes, he transforms his green leaves into a rusty red. Then suddenly comes the piercing frost at the end of autumn and then begins that magnificent, crimson red phase till he drops his leaves completely for his winter's sleep. The Japanese have a practice in this time of year, momijigari, "the hunt for deep red leaves." Many go on a "pilgrimage" to places where the Maple trees are transforming life to death, to appreciate this beautiful process. I personally have not yet been to Japan but I know that I will be at least once in this lifetime on a momijigari.
As I have mentioned before in other posts, I look to the trees for life's wisdom. Even in this time of contraction and closing in, there is beauty and purpose for the inward movement. It is as Larre and Rochat state, it is "in order to protect life and to protect the universe."
Larre, Claude/ Rochat de la Vallée, Elisabeth (1992) : The Secret Treatise of the Spiritual Orchid. Nei Jing Su Wen Chapter 8. Cambridge: Monkey Press.
Images by Elaine