Fall in Texas is this catch-22 for me. On the one hand, I’m thankful to have (finally) stopped sweating. On the other hand, it’s still 80+ degrees; tweed jackets and boots necessitate the AC (what’s the point, folks? let’s keep wearing shorts), and besides that, the light is all weird. Has anyone ever noticed that? In Waco, the dusky light foreshadows October, but then I step outside and it’s steamy. With a sigh of disappointment, I try for gratitude acknowledging at least it’s not July.
Still, being the sap for setting, place and nostalgia that I am, when I remember my leafy Massachusetts hometown my heart skips a beat. Autumn was a peaceful and still sanctuary, even though the foliage was ablaze and the colors ran wild. My mom, with her beautiful knack for ritual and celebration, made a tradition of leaf-walks. Together, we would go in the woods behind my house and crunch through the leaves the maples had let go. We would hold hands and hum songs, and in between, I’d tell my mom all my secrets. The crunching and the humming just made me spill. It was all sort of magical. I would ask her what her favorite color leaf was, and without fail, she would say, “yellow like the sun,” and I would say, “I like the orange because it’s a mix.”
On top of the trees, and the leaf-walks, and the leaf-piles that dotted our yard, there was the hustle of the season. Autumn is a season of intention, purpose and energy. For better or for worse, this is my stuff of life, so I welcomed their seasonal arrival even as a young child. The lazy days of summer are over! I get to go to school! And meet more people! And do more things! And work hard! It’s true and a little pathetic. My own neurotic harvesting, if you will.
But now, as a grown-up, beginning my fourth year away from my bright and dear East Coast Autumns, I am thinking about the way the falling leaves and the rising harvest-time shape the season. The beauty of the trees is also their downfall. Come December, the maples are skeletal and scrawny, and the leaves, glorious just a week ago, are gone. Thanksgiving is over. We have planned and gathered. We have prepared and stored. We have begun new routines and they have quickly become dull. Now, the light has gone away and the frost has come. There is a natural lull and winter covers things. And in Northern New England, that covering is for, well, a long time. We have no choice but to release the things that we had worked so hard to maintain and just settle in—we don’t hold our breath.
So I think about these things as I am carving out my corner of the world. I think about the losses that I must endure, and continue to endure so I can mature in the way I seek my God and find myself and engage creatively with others. Letting go has something to do with release and release has something to do with freedom and freedom, for us small human beings in this great big world, must include a bit of surrender. So, might we live life with the passion and all the rich color of Autumn herself, but might we let it go as easily and as naturally as she does? Might we give in and surrender the attachments that keep us from running wild and ablaze? Might we let go of things that make us run ragged well past harvest time? Let us be alive! And when winter comes, let us be alive still.
I’m not sure how well I ease in and out, or up and down or over and under life’s transitions. It’s painful, to let go of the people, dreams and notions that we harvested. But, it’s necessary. Let’s face it: no one wants to welcome a seven month freeze, but you know what? To do otherwise would be to ignore what’s there, and delusion, when caked on too thickly over the years makes us crusty, hard-headed and quite….stuck.
One thing I know: Loss is hard, but when we give, just a bit, it begets wisdom, just like the changing season begets the budding crocus or the burnt leaf or the first snowfall. We are thankful that grace, once again, has arrived unanticipated, against all odds and all at once. And all the sudden we are down on our knees again, knowing that life is good and life is fleeting. And we let life in.