A few weeks ago, one of my friends posted a beautiful meme on their Facebook page, depicting autumn leaves, with this quote: “The trees are about to show us how lovely it is to let things go.” Now, given that, at that moment, we still had two official weeks of summer, it was 97 degrees outside with about 80% humidity, and the trees and grass were as green as a dollar bill, I saved the image to look at later.
But this morning, the air was crisp and cool when I stepped outside. A breeze murmured in the pine in my front yard. Our one remaining child who is a college student is well and truly in the midst of the semester, and Family Day is this week at his school. Football and marching bands and sweaters on sale in the catalogues remind us of the incipient change of the season. And I looked up and saw the first hint of autumn color in a leaf on the maple tree in my neighbor’s yard. I took a deep breath, felt the tickle of leaf-mold in that breath—and promptly sneezed. Ah, well.
Nonetheless, the coming of autumn is a lesson in grace and gratitude. Summer subsides with a sigh, or sometimes with a struggle, here in the Midwest, but no matter what it will relax into autumn in an incremental, generous embrace of gold, scarlet, and, eventually, ochre. The tempo of life seems to slow a bit, along with the sap running in the veins of trees, and chevrons of birds begin arrowing their way southward. When I was a child, I was sad to see them go, but now I know that in a few months they will return, and my main hope for them now is to wish them well on their journey.
The trees ARE about to show us how lovely it is to let things go. They are also about to show us how to embrace the new. It seems hard to imagine that now, but the truth is that each leaf releases its hold on the branch because there is already the dream and anticipation of spring gathering itself up so that, come spring, new leaves will be born again from that same branch. The tree doesn’t shed its leaves only from a posture of giving, but so that it can receive new blessings, new life, new growth. There is giving, but it is not obligation so much as desire, desire to enrich the ground which in turn enriches the roots of the tree itself and all its companions of fern and ivy that entwine around its base.
The letting go is necessary for the embrace of new life, new hope, new possibilities. As autumn begins in earnest, may we embrace the language not just of giving but of desiring, of gazing with a bright, hopeful gaze toward the future, with all its possibilities, of embracing the promise of spring even as autumn leaves start to fall.
The Rev. Leslie Scoopmire is a retired teacher, mom, and musician, and serves as priest-in-charge of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Ellisville, MO, in the Diocese of Missouri. She blogs at Abiding in Hope and at Poems, Psalms, and Prayers.