The tip of the maple is red and taunting. The tree will soon succumb to the shift of seasons, giving way to color and gradually shedding its leaves in the winds of autumn. Though we wait for the markers of the seasons each year, their arrival is no less surprising, often breathtaking.
Always as the light makes its seasonal shifts I find myself in retrospective loops. Just last year I was doing thus and so. For reasons that are unclear yet no less grounded, the autumn season has been one of significant shifts in my life. It was the season of farewell to a unrequited love and some years later the season of my coming out publicly. The autumn leaves bring memories of my own college sojourn long ago and the emptying of my nest in recent years. This is the season when just last year I confessed my need to lose my grip on professional identity that had once been life-giving but from whence all life had sept.
Four cycles back, I stood on the eve of this season with trepidation. My firstborn was perched to fly from the nest at the end of an idyllic summer that had given to me both my first taste of true love and also many happy hours with my teenage children. I feared the change that lie ahead, wanting to cling to the goodness that had been gifted. I confessed my dread of autumn, the season in which the once abundant fauna announce their impending death. My beloved suggested that the season might be reclaimed and promised tender care, cuddles by the fire, and hot tea.
As I pause this morning to take stock of the trees now turning, I realize that the season has indeed taken on a new dimension in my life. Still a season undeniably painted with the hues of loss, in each loss I see incredible new life.
Watching the pumpkin patch pictures of young families dance on my Facebook feed, I confess that I miss the young years with my children. At the same time, I absolutely delight in our emerging traditions with apple picking and pumpkin patches in their new homes. Admittedly often confused about my identity these days and the unending list of tasks as a first year teacher, I am filled with gratitude for the opportunity to experience the sacred from a new perspective. As I drink coffee, still unshowered and in my pajamas at 9am on a Sunday morning, I realize that the life that I have today is made possible in the letting go.
Letting go of the expectation of external (professional) identity, letting go of the expectation of a Martha Stewart home, letting go of the expectation of being a perfect mother. Letting go of what might have been (and never was), the wonder of what is becomes more visible.
I am loved. Totally and truly. And I love. Imperfectly but with my whole heart. This truth is manifest with my beloved who opened her heart to me and daily invites me to do the same, inviting me to consider this simple rhythm of openness as I move beyond the safety of our sacred circle. This truth is manifest in our home that is sometimes cluttered and in need of a scrub but that always has room at the table for one more. This truth is manifest as I encounter nine little faces each day, filled with emotions that I may never fully understand; no longer seeking to please hundreds, I can find authentic rhythm with this handful. In this quiet moment, I realize a peace that is precious and elusive.
The sensory wonder of autumn still gives me pause but no longer foreboding. The process of letting go is daunting, always, but the promise of new life holds the leaf as it falls gently to the ground. Now on the other side of one of life’s endless transitions, knowing that many still lie ahead, I feel a solidarity with the colorful leaves that call from the top of the tree. There is life and love and hope to be found when the struggle to be green is loosed and the wonder of the hidden hue shines forth.
This is the hope of autumn’s dance of color.