By Sarah Sowelu
I'm often sad when summer turns to fall. Although I relish the glorious colours and thick golden sunlight of autumn, I notice the enjoyment is tinged with sadness as the seasonal year dies in a riotious burst of heart-breaking beauty. Autumn is a sad joy, reflecting, as Joseph Campbell says, "the joyful sorrow and sorrowful joy" of living.

It's been a year since I moved to Victoria and made a new home in James Bay. I arrived in late October, and now, with air temperatures cooling and blue skies lowering into gray cloud, fog and rain, I find the return of autumn weather draws me inward to reflect on a year of intense transition and changes with many new joys and old sadnesses. Grief has been such a dogged shadow, I got curious about its necessary role in the cycles and transitions of our lives.

For almost thirty years, the 5-Element Theory of Oriental medicine has given me a cohesive, vibrant model to appreciate the ebb and flow of my life's changes. I know that the season, autumn, comes under the element of Metal; so, too, does the emotion of grief. When I consider the natural activity of autumn, harvesting the growth and produce of summer, I begin to see a bigger picture of grief and what I've been doing this past year: releasing an old life to embrace a new one, the essence of a necessary process, no different than the in/out of our breath, the ebb/flow of the tide, or the waxing/waning of the moon. Also under the element of Metal comes the pair of meridians (energy pathways) for the lungs and large intestine. The bodily functions of breathing and elimination travel the same energy circuit as the emotional expression of grief and the seasonal change of autumn. Having this bigger picture gives me firmer ground to walk with grief. I intuitively sense that unless I give myself a year, at least, to allow grief, it will not allow me to fully embrace my new life. This bigger picture also gives me vital clues on how to allow grief its needed space and say.

Grief is emotional harvesting. In autumn, we gather summer's produce, sift and sort what to keep and discard, then store for the winter to sustain us. In grief, we harvest feelings, sifting and sorting, releasing and gleaning the essence of the past to sustain us in transition as we allow a new life to unfold. In the harvest of grief are the seeds to grow a new life. The sadness of loss so intensely pulls us inwards that we finally experience the essence of what has died in form. The essence never dies; it is the harvest that gives us joy.

As we move from the out-and-about of easy living summer to the inwardly focused work of autumn harvesting, it is natural to feel sad with the seasonal change. All about, in the natural world of autumn, we are reminded that life is constantly dying into something different, and not always what we think we want. Sadness is grief's way of slowing us down to experience the loss fully, to empty and ready us for the spring of birth and new growth, a joy that always returns. Allowing sadness, allows joy, and that is the elemental movement of life's seasonal flow.