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The Autumn Queen

A short story by Margaret Marangione,
featured in the Fall Edition of Enchanted Living Magazine

Featured Image:
Photograph by Courtney B. Hall @light_witch

The vermilion, salmon, and raspberry shades of spring give way to the luminescent greens of summer and then autumn’s tangerine, golden yellows, and scarlets—the bold colors of the lower chakras that remind us about grounding and identity. This is the season the queen knows well, for she has harnessed all her power and magic with the growing ripeness of spring and summer. Cleopatra, Catherine the Great, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Empress Dowager Cixi, and Boudica were women in the autumn of their years, ruling their kingdoms, men, children, and lives.

While mainstream media celebrates the maiden and nymph, and patriarchy demands motherhood, and the crone becomes the hook-nosed witch, autumn reminds us to celebrate the power of our own inner queen. Martha Stewart on the cover of Sports Illustrated, the adventurous self-identifying ladies of the Book Club movies, and the embracing of gray and silver hair by celebrities remind us that life after forty-five is not to be feared. While the fresh beauty of the maiden is exquisite, and the fecundity of motherhood is beautiful, I would not wish for spring in winter (though I might occasionally wish for the cool of fall during the oppressive summer heat). Every season has its time and place, just like every age of our lives is meant to be honored.

Autumn is the sovereign of the year and reminds me of the last day of a full moon, just on the edge of waning. In the cool of September days, fertility is done, and now is the time of harnessing the authority of life and a bountiful harvest. It is not the time for growth but the time of supremacy—when a woman, like the year, has fully realized her life’s efforts and knows who and what she is. The queen and mother earth have worked hard. Demeter, Hestia, Danu, and every mother who has weaned her children knows that this is the time for her. The queen rests in her abundance, strength, and authority. The harvest is in. The corn has been chopped and the fields gleaned. Persephone descends and Demeter relaxes on her throne with a goblet of wine, eyeing her palace and at ease waiting for her consort in winter to emerge. But she is in no hurry or lacking support. If she is so inclined, druids flank her sides and her sister goddesses surround her. She is blessed and thanks the heaven and earth.

Now in the autumn of my life, I am aware of my place in the wheel of the year, and I celebrate with friends, gathering around bonfires as we sip bourbon-laced apple cider. As the hunter’s moon glows large, my desire to chase runs in my veins. The rut is on, and the deer are mating as the King Stag makes his presence known by deep bellows and snorts, running his harem across field, stream, wood, and pasture. I run these woods on horseback, my hounds baying ahead as I gallop, for winter is on my tail. Back at home, a warm fire flickers and a stew is bubbling.

 

I delay starting my woodstove, just like the last crickets delay the end of summer, because once the crackling of the sweet smell of locust, maple, apple, and oakwood warms my bones, I am married to it until spring comes again. I am grateful to be able to start my chill autumn morning with dried wood that was gathered and stacked in the cool of spring. The hint of winter is banished by the warm and then hot crackling fire. Sipping my dark coffee laced with the cream of goat’s milk, I snuggle into its safety. At night I stoke those orange embers with aromatic pinewood as the salamanders of the fire wrap themselves around me, filling my farmhouse with safety and warmth. The autumn chill cools off the evenings, and the lavender and ginger sky hustles me and my farm animals to home and byre.

 

It is in spring that I stack my wood for winter. It is in summer that I fill the barn with sweet green hay for my animals, and it is in early fall that I have canned vegetables for my larder. Hanging from the oak beams above my woodstove are comfrey, mullein, motherwort, chamomile, elderberry flowers, calendula, nettle, sweet Annie, and fragrant geranium. I have dried tomatoes and peppers. Stored pumpkins, squash and potatoes, cabbages. Greens might come up all winter long. A reminder that nothing ever dies in the cold of winter, not even us.

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