Color and balance as fall begins

Welcome to autumn! Yesterday’s fall equinox got me to thinking about balance – after all, equinox means equal night, and it is supposed to be the day when the number of daylight hours equals (more or less) the number of night time hours. (This year, where I live, we had 12 hours and 9 minutes of daylight on the equinox.) While the hours of dark and light were balancing out, I wondered, “what does that mean for all of nature and for me personally? Am I in balance? Do the plants and animals know that it is a time of transition? What am I observing in the world around me that demonstrates balance and shows me how to achieve balance in my own life? What am I grateful for during this transition from summer to fall?

I’m grateful to be alive and able to walk on this planet, sharing space with the amazing plants and animals that inhabit it. They give us so much in terms of balance. Every part of the ecosystem helps to balance every other part. Each plant and creature provides a service to us humans, free of charge, that enables us to journey through this life. Just spending time with the plants and animals helps me maintain my own physical, mental, and spiritual balance.

In my wanderings the past few days, it has been hard to ignore the changing colors of fall. While we are still weeks away from peak autumn leaves, so many other things are in a color transition, like the many young cardinals who have visited our feeder lately – in every stage of brown and red imaginable as they grow up and begin to wear their teenage to adult plumage.

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Getting there, this young cardinal is still changing colors


The maturing milkweed pods are host to yellow and orange aphids and orange and black milkweed bugs, feeding on the milky sap of their favorite plant.


The walnuts and hickory nuts are changing from green to brown, dropping from their limbs, and inviting us to collect their nuts for winter nourishment.

But, for me, the predominant color of early autumn is definitely yellow. Yellow – the color of optimism and happiness, but also of caution and awareness. So many beautiful yellow subjects have captured my attention lately.

A monarch caterpillar ‘s bright yellow and black stripes decorate a milkweed stem.


Lovely goldenrod graces roadsides and old fields


The sycamores are starting to turn yellow and brown


Bearsfoot (Smallanthus uvedalia) shows a pretty yellow face


Yellow Crownbeard (Verbesina occidentalis) shows off its raggedy flowers. I love the way the disk flowers protrude in all directions, while the ray flowers (broader petals) droop.


The sweet gum is beginning to fade to yellow. This tree will get all kinds of orange and burgundy leaf colors later in the fall.

So, the autumn equinox means time to celebrate the abundance of harvest in our gardens and on our farms, but also reminds us this is a time of transition, of slowing down, of change and reflection. As each day brings new colors and textures, fruits and seeds, it also brings opportunity for seeking balance – finding the joy in life and nurturing the connections we have with our friends, family, and all living beings.

Enjoy the colors and balance of autumn, and be grateful for all of plant and animal friends.

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