Tag Archives: autumn

Wandering and Other Words

I’ve always been fascinated by words. From childhood I’ve loved reading and writing, and my adult working life has been specifically focused on words as a medical transcriptionist/editor. We pantheists periodically have discussions about the language we use; we know words matter. While some of us have repurposed words from our past or normal societal use, finding ways to incorporate them into our pantheistic lives, others completely avoid anything with religious overtones such as God, spiritual, holy, sacred. A member of the Universal Pantheist Society Facebook group recently shared an original poem including the word ‘sacred’ with respect to Nature. Someone said just omit that word. My response was to write from your heart. If it has meaning to you, then use it. Consulting several dictionaries confirmed that while ‘sacred’ is often used in more traditional “mainstream” religions, it’s certainly not exclusive to them. It also simply means worthy of reverence and awe. If Nature doesn’t fit that definition, I don’t know what does.

I also enjoy learning interesting, lovely new words related to the natural world; for example, psithurism is the sound of wind in trees, and petrichor, the smell of rain. A nemophilist is one who loves the beauty of forests, and Yugen is profound awareness of the universe that triggers deep feelings.

One word that especially resonates with me is solivagant, wandering alone. Wandering invariably reminds me of a favorite movie, Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo.” Madeleine went wandering. Her husband told Scottie, “And she wanders – God knows where she wanders.” Madeleine herself said, “Only one is a wanderer. Two together are always going somewhere.” Scottie doesn’t agree with that; neither do I.

I’ve been fortunate to have people in my life who enjoyed taking off down the road without an agenda other than to see what’s over the next hill, around that curve, enjoying the journey, communing with Nature. We’ve been surprised by a traffic jam of goats, deer families, creeks running across roads, unexpected rainbows and spring snows, an expansive patch of Turks cap lilies, joe pye in autumn, ducks and fishermen sharing the river in summer. There are many good memories to be made during an afternoon of wandering. I blame my love of “loafering,” as we southerners sometimes call it, on my parents and our weekly Sunday afternoon drives with no idea where we were going or when we’d be back, and it has carried into my adult life, via car, truck, motorcycle, bicycle, boat, canoe, and by foot.

Wandering has a history among Pantheist favorites as well. Thoreau, Emerson, and Muir “sauntered” in Nature as a form of spiritual practice and solitude, while Edward Abbey encouraged us to “ramble…and contemplate the precious stillness out yonder, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space.”

Wandering can lead us as far from home (or keep us as near) as we like. It’s about taking time to slow down and appreciate what’s around us without being in a hurry or on a rigid schedule, and as J.R.R. Tolkien reminds us, “Not all those who wander are lost.” In these days of COVID-19 isolation and distancing, wandering is something we can still do alone, or with family, even if it’s simply exploring our neighborhood. We may see something we never noticed before as we sped by on our way somewhere. But I’ve also come to realize this year that my whole life is really “wandering” in the sense that I’m starting to let go of what life should look like for me. None of us know what’s coming tomorrow or next week, and if we’re too attached to our expectations, the discrepancy can be quite stressful.

Autumn here in the mountains is the perfect time for wandering, seeing leaves change their glorious hues under clear blue skies, experiencing that crisp “feeling of fall” that’s hard to explain, but you know when you feel it, perhaps being fortunate enough to happen upon one of those roadside stands selling apples, pumpkins, fresh cider. I hope wherever and however you wander, you’ll allow the sacredness of Nature to renew and inspire you.

(Originally printed in Pantheist Vision)


It’s Apple Season

“If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.”

I love this quote attributed to Carl Sagan. Autumn is my favorite season. That wasn’t always the case, but since discovering I was a Pantheist years ago, I’ve come to recognize and appreciate the abundance of gifts and lessons that Nature offers us all during the year. Autumn gives us glorious colors, crisp cooler days, a welcome respite from summer’s heat….and apples.

Here in western North Carolina, it’s apple country. Fall brings apple festivals with their kings and queens, local crafts and music, and tasty treats, plus fruit stands dotting these mountain roads, selling many varieties of this cherished fruit, pumpkins and gourds and Indian corn, along with late-summer produce. One such, Barber’s, also has a bakery where you can buy applesauce, apple butter, spiced apple cider, apple turnovers, fritters, muffins, fresh apple cake, and, of course, apple pie. So when I think of fall, I think of Barber’s Orchard, apples, and Carl Sagan, and they’re warm, cozy thoughts, indeed.


His quote is a succinct expression of universal interconnectedness. If sacred means uniting with the universe, the divine, the larger than me, then eating certainly qualifies as a spiritual practice. Back to Sagan’s apple pie, partaking of a slice brings me in relationship with the whole – the people who planted, watered, and pruned the trees; picked the apples; made the flour, the butter, and other ingredients; baked the pie, sold it, or served it to me, if I didn’t make it myself, and the people I share my food with, but beyond that, the sun, trees, bees, rain, and soil, Nature in all its glory, so that an apple pie (or cake!) or whatever I’m having for a meal is so much more than just food sitting on my plate. It’s a microcosm of the entire universe. When I take a bite, it and all those elements that went into its making become part of me and I in some way part of them, and so the cycles continue on, ever related. It’s life, pure and simple. None of us are self-sufficient or living in a vacuum, able to exist without the Universe (not even that apple pie). Without it, none of us would be here. People have different ideas on how the Universe came to be and different explanations for all its intricate beauties and workings and conditions conducive to the flourishing of life, but there are some things I know. It’s here, for this little moment in time I’m here to experience it, it’s my home and nourishment, and I need it.

Yes, sometimes it’s okay to simply do something as mundane as eating dessert after dinner without another thought except enjoyment and wondering whether or not you should have a second helping! We’ve long known how social food is. Eating with someone is a special experience, a time of sharing, whether it’s lunch or some other specific occasion. We bring food when people are born, when someone dies, celebrates a birthday, marries, or achieves some accomplishment or milestone. Making or providing food for another person, or perhaps a non-human animal, is a way to express love and caring for them, but beyond that, it also can become a larger, more elevated experience connecting me to people, other animals, and places I’ll never know or see. So often, the effects of things we do are flung farther and wider than we realize. How often do we take time to think about or appreciate this big picture? Really, what could be more sacred, more divine?


I’ve taken a lot for granted in my life, and now I try to live more mindfully and with much gratitude. That’s a gift that Pantheism has given me since I claimed it as my spiritual path and have interacted with other Pantheists, to help me appreciate every moment, every connection, places nearby and far away, and to be thankful. Autumn is a season of harvest and thanksgiving, and it seems fitting that I’ll celebrate the Autumn Equinox this year (September 22nd) with a slice of warm apple pie from this season’s bounty, remember Carl Sagan, and simply be grateful for everything the Universe has given me, for life itself, and for my extraordinary good fortune to be part of it.

For those interested in saying a simple grace of thanksgiving at mealtime, here’s one in this same spirit:

“Bless our hearts to hear in the breaking of bread the song of the universe.” (Father John Giuliani)

Happy Autumn!


(originally published in Pantheist Vision)