A friend told me recently that she doesn’t like fall. It’s a pang of regret; the long warm days of summer slip away, we grieve the loss of freedom as the frenzy of meetings, to do lists, carpools and life kicks into high gear. It’s also a portent of the unavoidable; decline and decay, cold and dark ultimately death.
I admit, it’s hard to not love fall here in New England, where the crisp air sings of change, where pumpkins and apple cider are celebrated richly, and especially in Salem, festivities abound. And while what my friend points out is true, and those pangs of regret are indeed poignant reminders of what’s to come, I learned something this year that makes my enjoyment of the season all the more profound.
I once saw a speaker who took an acorn, held it in her hand, looked at in intently and then exclaimed, “How do you do that?!?” She was reminding us and inviting us into a state of wonder – what’s meant to be lies within. If you were to metaphorically ask an acorn what it is, I assume it might think it was merely an acorn. If you were to ask a young sapling, it might have a clue as to what it was becoming. If you were to ask an oak tree in full summer bloom arrayed in green leaves and lengthening limbs, it might reply, I am an oak. What I never knew until this year is this: the color the leaves are in the fall is the actual color they were meant to be. I used to think that the tree was expressing it’s full “tree-ness” in summer and that fall was simply the beginning of the end. What a glorious beginning of the end for sure, but the colors of fall signaled the end of things. As it turns out, chlorophyll masks the true colors of the leaves and it’s not until autumn that the true “tree-ness” bursts forth. It’s not really the beginning of the end after all – it’s the trees truest expression of itself.
That little piece of information (thanks to Plumfield Academy and it’s brilliant nature studies program, to which it allows parents and siblings to tag along) has significantly shifted my understanding of both the season and myself. I’m experiencing the turn of the season, the passage of time now not as (mainly) a slow decline, a march toward darkness and death, but rather a glorious bursting forth of nature’s real self. That is a real gift, for as I see nature, I see myself. Who knows but that my true self is yet to burst forth in glorious reality.