Sacred Groves: An Autumn Reflection


I arrive
just in time to see
one yellow leaf
at last let go, slowly
through morning sunshine
to quietly ripple the stillness
of the pond

On mornings like this, I can begin to understand why the ancients set aside sacred groves and sanctuaries of nature as places for communion with the gods. I think what they felt in those places, which they thought to be the haunts of Apollo, or Odin, or even faeren, was truly the presence of the divine filtering through the veil.


There is something almost holy about the light of autumn mornings, the way it glints through tree and leaf, filtering down through the thinning, colorful canopy to the forest floor. This morning I came, hollowed out and husk-dry from the cares of life. As I crested the bank from the gravel parking area to the pond, I saw a single golden leaf fall through a beam of sunshine, to quietly ripple the sublime stillness of the surface. Climbing down to the other side of the road, I watched as water poured over the dam and burbled between banks flecked with rich gold and red.

In such a place it feels easier to pray than it has in days, to commune with the One breathing behind and into sun, water, leaf, and tree. Everywhere my eyes turn he is fluttering behind a tree, making leaves death-dance in beautiful ballet spirals, laughing in the mirth of the rambling stream, or waiting in the silence of the still water. He is red, and gold, and green. He is filling me with fresh air, and breath, and Spirit, restoring life back to weary bones, even in this one glorious seasonal moment before death.

Chris is an Associate Professor of English at Bristol Community College in Massachusetts, and is also the author of several books of poetry. In 2018 he helped co-found The Poetry Pub, an online community for poets. He enjoys walking in the woods, visiting coffee shops, and poking through used bookstores with his wife Jen.