The Gift of Autumn


Each year, I am equally surprised when autumn bursts into full view. There is no ignoring it.  The leaves morph and change before our eyes, moving away from their emboldened green color to the bright yellows or reds that change the landscape around us and demand we stop and pay attention. The feel of the air turns colder in the mornings and evenings at first, but before long, the chill in the air calls us into our homes. We long for warmth and comfort. The darkness settles in earlier in the evenings and stays later through the early mornings, urging us to sleep a bit longer.  The schedule we followed just a few months ago, amidst the peak of summer seems harder. Our energy may lessen.

Nature seems to be urging us to change with the seasons.  The leaves of the tree outside our back window—the ones that have shielded the trunk and branches from the searing sun of  hot summer are being let go. They fall delicately, almost in slow motion. The tree that was once so lush and full becomes stark and bare. It is all about the essentials and rooting back down in preparation for the survival of winter.

And are we not the same? Sometimes, I think culturally we are expected to dwell in the season of summer for months on end, all year long, for the duration of our lives. The message is that we must be productive at all times. Faster is better. More is the objective. Our worth is tied to our yield. The days are packed tight with activities and all manner of extroversion. But what if this is simply not how we are designed to function best? What if we were to choose to live mindfully in tune with the seasons and take a cue from all that surrounds us?

I have been giving a great deal of thought to the idea that I might have some leaves that I could let go in the efforts to slow down a bit, live more deeply, and fortify myself. As it turns out, I am not so different from the trees! I am looking at the way I choose to spend my time, what habits and beliefs have crept their way into my being, and whether my life truly reflects what I feel I need to be happy in this moment.

And so it is that this autumn, I will be looking to turn inward. To embrace the warmth of hearth and home. To awaken each morning with a hot beverage. And to pause and take in all the glory of fall.

I will also try to let go of a few things that aren’t really serving me. A few of the leaves that I want to let go of are:

  1. The guilt that often accompanies the time I take for myself amidst the day or in other words, the belief that my worth is tied to my busyness or productivity. That is the first leaf to go!

  2. The belief that DO-ing is superior to BE-ing. I am letting go of daily leaves that reinforce the manic nature of some days. If I can do without that errand or consolidate trips to the store, I am doing it. I am willing to embrace having less so that I can live fully more. I want to slow down and connect more deeply.

  3. I will continue to fortify my roots in ways that I find grounding. Meditating, hiking in the mountains, reading good books, and making room for creativity are a few of my staples.

Family activity or fall ritual idea:

  • Gather some colorful leaves together. Pick two or three leaves for each person involved. Heat your iron on the lowest setting. Sandwich each leaf between two sheets of wax paper. Cut around the leaf with a two-inch border or so. Label each leaf with something each person would like to let go or add as a fortifier. A permanent marker might work best. Talk about the importance of letting go beliefs that limit or hurt us in some way. Chat about how fortifiers can be grounding amidst times of change. Hang them in a window so that the sun can shine through them!!

  • Or build a fire or sit by candlelight. Gather sheets of paper (shaped like leaves if you are super crafty but plain will also be fine!). Have each person write down two or three things they want to let go of or fortify. Burn all of the let go papers as you talk about the importance of both letting go and fortifying ourselves.

I would love to hear how you experience Autumn. What are some leaves in your life that you would love to let go?