• Guest Contributor

Autumn Contemplation

by Hannah Podhorzer, '19

I call this season of life

“Autumn contemplation”

For as I weasel my way out of

My summer-stained cocoon

I too find myself 

In a moment of transition

And I wonder

If the leaves feel the same way

When they turn from green to red?

Over five months ago, I graduated from Elon. It is strange to even type that. Five months feels both like an eternity and a flash. But regardless, it is a transition. Transitions come with acts of packing and unpacking, settling and unsettling, and a constant reset button where each press is fueled by fear of uncertainty. There are changes and shifts, in relationships with others, in confidence, in sense of purpose and direction. But what remains constant through it all, is me.

Working at the Truitt Center was the most impactful part of my Elon experience. It introduced me to new religious, spiritual, and secular experiences, extraordinary people, and continual blossoming moments of awe. And so, perhaps, it is not surprising, that one of my favorite parts of celebrating the High Holidays (Rosh Hashanah, The Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, The Day of Atonement), with my home synagogue community in Atlanta this year, was the ways in which it reminded me of the rich multifaith setting I had left only months earlier.

For starters, my synagogue, for as long as we’ve been a part of it, has been pretty nomadic. Our High Holiday services are annually held in a beautiful, welcoming local Episcopalian church, with sweeping windows that bathes the sanctuary in a warm glimmer. But, the multifaith train doesn’t just stop there. It continues. On the second day of Rosh Hashanah, we chant words by Rumi, a famous Muslim scholar and poet. We chant this phrase over and over again, with the same energy as a peaceful stream of water or air:

“Maybe you are searching among the branches,

For what only appears in the roots.” 

A beautiful landscape near Portland, Oregon

And I wonder, what if I am? I want my life right now to feel like it did at Elon. Not barren and pale, but full of colorful blossoming and growth. I want my life to be full of Autumn trees, emerald spun into gold. Gilded yellows and burnt oranges. Like the beautiful ones I saw while on a recent adventure to Oregon. 

But my roots? I cannot see. Only feed and believe that they’re leading me somewhere I cannot see. 

Roots. The reality is that it took me a long time to find my roots at Elon. Months of searching and seeking. And this chapter is perhaps no different. For there, in that glistening sanctuary, the roots I feel are the ones planted by my synagogue community. The people that have loved me for so long. The songs that recenter me. The annual windows I’ve come to expect as my screen into what the Earth thinks about “all this.” Maybe this place and these people are quenching a thirst I didn’t even know I had. These moments, during the High Holidays, allow for pause. To listen for the root. To listen to the root. 

Those roots grew from this community in Atlanta all the way over to the Truitt Center and around Elon’s campus, scattering and searching for a place to call home. Perhaps that is the reality of this season of my life. This transition from Elon feels a lot like my transition to Elon. While transitions are messy, they do offer us a pause. They offers us these moments in which we walk through fear and loneliness, uncertainty and beauty, and as we look down at our feet, firmly planted on a new slice of terrain, we realize that maybe, within ourselves, thanks to our roots, we were already at home to begin with. 

And so this is my autumn contemplation.

For I wonder if the 

Earth and its children

Feel wrecked or renewed

When the shedding of comfort is signaled  

By a shy gust of wind

And a fallen sunburnt leaf. 

Today, I pick renewal. 

-- an ode to transitions, and an ode to the Truitt Center 

Hannah Podhorzer, affectionately known to her Truitt Center family as Hannah Pod, graduated from Elon University in the spring of 2019 with a double major in Communication Design and Public Health. She was an interfaith intern with the Truitt Center for three years and was heavily involved in all aspects of religious and spiritual life at Elon. Most recently, she served as an ORISE fellow at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

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