As I sit on my back porch, the overcast, chilly gray of the last week has been swept aside, replaced with fluffy clouds and intermittent peeks of blue.
My backyard, a hilly and verdant forest, is in the throes of change.
Ferns, so green and full all summer long, are withering. Vines have stopped exploring. Leaves are turning yellow now. Other branches are tipped in red as if their ends have been dipped in fire. And when the wind blows, the air is filled with spinning, twisting, and falling—as one by one, the leaves release their tight hold on the branches and twigs that gave birth to them just five short months ago.
There is a beauty to fall.
Once again the world is awash in color, a parabolic echo of the joys of spring. I once heard fall described as a second spring, but that’s dismissive.
Fall’s beauty is no more a repeat of spring’s, than a grandmother’s smile-wrinkled eyes are a repeat of a child’s innocence.
There is no need to glorify beginnings at the cost of a beautifully-performed finale.
I am relatively new to the Northeast. Where I grew up, we didn’t have true seasons. We had mild, wet winters, a spring that exploded into being seemingly overnight, and then long, scorching days that stretched into long, scorching months.
This new experience of witnessing the world reinvent itself every three months is profound.
Winters here are cold, biting, and blanketed in white. Winters have taught me about the delights of coziness, of fires and woolen socks, and piles of blankets shared with someone you love.
Winters have taught me about waiting and biding your time, about having roots so deep you don’t fear the cold.
Springs here are bipolar, manic almost. A week of sunshine and warmth could give way to a snow storm at any time. Our first spring here I pulled up and put back our driveway plow stakes three times.
Spring has taught me to be patient. Spring has taught me that things don’t happen on my timeline, no matter how much I want them to.
Summers in the Northeast are pure magic: mild temperatures, sunshine, soft grass, beaches, mountains, lakes, and more ice cream stands per capita than I’ve ever encountered. Summer has taught me that life is joyful and that reconnecting with nature—be it sand, grass, wind, lakes, or mountain trails—brings more bliss than anything I could ever buy.
But fall. Fall here is a whole other kind of magic.
As days grow shorter, nature begins to prepare. Already that is profound. We can prepare for an end. We don’t have to ignore it, pretend like it’s not coming, and then insist we are surprised when it inevitably arrives.
The leaves begin their greatest transformation yet, letting the green fade away to reveal an ecstasy of red and gold and orange that were there, underneath, all along.
Fall is about revelation and true colors.
And when, at some moment unmarked by human clocks, the leaves have shown us who they really are, when they’ve taught us that the height of beauty can only be achieved when all facades and masks are stripped away to reveal the truth of what’s inside, when we finally gasp and stare in wonder—nature lets it all go.
The trees drop their trappings, shedding the parts of them that no longer serve a purpose. Even when it means shedding everything. Even when it means they now stand, bare, in the cold. There is no shriveling, no shrinking, no shame in having let go.
You cannot experience new growth until you’ve gotten rid of the old, cleared out space, made room, and waited—waited through the cold, waited through the bareness, waited for the warmth, and the urge to begin again.
There is an anapanasati, a breathing meditation, in which I sit, eyes closed, and bring my consciousness to the edge of my nostril. I note my out breath, I feel it dissolve and disperse into the air, and I pause, for that split second completely empty of the very thing that gives me life.
In that pause, I wait for the in breath. I wait for the breath to return. I wait for the recreation of everything I am. Despite the loss of the out breath and the emptiness of the pause, I relax into the moment, confident, never fearing that the in breath won’t come.
Today I sit on my back porch, and I watch the world around me begin its out breath.
Fall is about beautiful grand finales.
It’s about knowing when it’s time to let things go.
There’s no more pretension. No more growth.
There is only the beauty of true colors revealed and the awe-inspiring willingness to shed everything that no longer serves a purpose.
Nature around me literally dissolves, preparing for the pause, knowing that after the pause, the in breath will come again.
Fall teaches us that we don’t have to fear endings.
We don’t have to ignore them, pretending we have the power to stave them off.
The pace of life is cyclical.
The rise and fall of the tides, the in and out of the breath, the hello and goodbye of our relationships.
We learn patience while things develop.
We learn joy while things flourish.
And we learn the amazing beauty of graceful goodbyes when we learn to let things go.
May all our worlds be filled with the fluttering, spinning, turning, shedding of that which no longer serves us. Here’s to beautiful falls.