The children are in bed. I decided to forego baths tonight. My last remnants of physical energy left my body a few hours ago, washed down the drain with the scraps and crumbs from dinner. Still, my mind is active, so here I am slumped over in my $30 thrift store chair and a cup of peppermint tea, thinking about the day and trying to solve the problems of my world–one of my favorite evening past-times.
The days are growing short and I find the increasing darkness to be disorienting. By 5:30pm it is black outside. Our bodies are still adjusting to the change. Dinner gets pushed up earlier, as does bedtime. We are approaching the peak of autumn, the trees just now coming into their prime, and I know that when we return home after the Thanksgiving holiday, we will be on the other side of the peak, making the quick and inevitable decent into winter.
I was looking back at some summer photos the other day and at this point it is already hard to fathom how different life felt then–the light, the heat, the carelessness of the long evenings. It’s crazy how much of life revolves around a change in the seasons and how much our memories are framed in that context.
This morning, during our drive to school, Lucy asked me why the leaves turn colors. It is hard to know how to explain this ritual to a three-year-old. I didn’t think she would appreciate a scientific answer (neither would I), so I just said that the cold weather tells the leaves it is time to change colors and that they get very bright and beautiful right before they die. Right after they change colors, they know it’s time to let go and fall to the ground. Then, in the winter, the trees are bare and get to rest–until the spring, when they get brand new leaves again.
“Then they’re green!” she exclaimed.
“Yes, Lu, they are green in the spring,” I said. I am always surprised by what her mind holds onto. The mind of a preschooler is very much a mystery to me.
This autumn I have found myself wondering how the leaves know when to let go. I suppose it is some instinct God breathed into them–something that just happens–yet I marvel at it each year. Sometimes the change that they go through seems so exhausting to me–the birthing, growing, maturing, aging, and dying. All the stages we go through in a single lifetime as humans, the trees relive every year from beginning to end. Tiring, yet inspiring.
Lu’s favorite trees are the red ones, the ones with bright crimson leaves. I think they are my favorite, too.
It’s like one of my favorite poets, Linda Pastan, says…
Late in October, I watch
it all unravel–the whole
succumbing to rain.
At the moment
of their most intense beauty,
reds and yellows bleed
into each other
like dried paints on a palette
is the mother of death,
not the other way around.
–from “Late in October” posted at Plume Poetry
“Perhaps beauty is the mother of death…”
That is something to think about…not only as it pertains to the trees…but as it pertains to our lives…this correlation between beauty and letting go…sacrifice and surrender.
That is all for tonight…time to let go of this day and prepare for another…
How does the autumn inspire you?