7.8 Editor's Pick
September 29, 2020

As Autumn Trees Surrender their Beauty—Can we too Let ourselves be Seen?


View this post on Instagram


My favorite smell is the air of autumn.

It’s a soft, full, earthy smell—decomposing colored leaves.

Does it suggest that death and decay enliven me?

The moment before a tree humbly strips itself bare for the winter, it transitions into a vivid fire—a beautiful surrendering. Terrains become painted with hues of orange, gold, and yellow.

Leaves swirl as they tumble a slow dance down to the dirt.

Is it not odd, as children, we rake decay into piles and jump again and again into death?

A vivid memory: small me buried below a pile of big, brown leaves, breathing in the astringent, bitter smell, wrapped in a mystical warmth, drinking in the smell like an intoxicating mixture. A feeling that held promise.

As summer starts to die—imagination and wonder awaken from slumber.

My father died in autumn. His last breath rattled before the whisk of a cold wind, a haunting autumn night.

I like to imagine he greeted death as poetic, whimsical, and careless as a thin golden Aspen leaf falls back to the earth in the wind. I forever sense his laughter in the rustle of trees swaying in the breeze on a sunny, blue-skied autumn day.

Doesn’t fall encourage us to take life less serious?

Everything that once blossomed bold and big starts to shed—illusions fall away instead. As everything becomes bare it seems like more magic stirs.

Autumn is a time of transition—a slow page turn of a yellow, dusty book.

There is no need to “do,” just an innate desire to “be.”

Autumn is the pause, the deep inhale mother earth takes before she slumbers.

In summer, we strive to be the best: to be perceived the smartest as we interrupt our friends, or as we refuse to listen, in case our ears hear something that challenge our worth. We strive to be the most successful—acquiring labels to wear as tokens of belonging.

But autumn asks us to settle into who we are.

That self we settle into when we arrive home after a long day, when we shower off the world, step into our pajamas, and curl our legs up on the couch.

The person I strive to be, always, is the person I am when no one is watching.

A friend once asked me, “Do you love yourself?”

Taken aback I replied quickly, “Of course.” But in the silence that lingered, after my words hung untrue in the air, I added, “Well, only when I’m alone.”

I struggle to step into what people desire me to be: respond kindly, laugh whole-heartedly, and give. But sometimes, I wish I could allow myself to be sarcastic, sassy, or moody. When I spend too much time being social, who I truly am seems to become buried deep—forgotten.

I wear so many hats, for so many friends, and so many people, I forget which one is on. I panic when two people from two different groups meet me together because the question screams from my brain—who should I be? 

Who should I please?

Little me is lost again.

But as nature sheds bare, I am encouraged to settle into myself.

The most courageous thing I can do each day is show up as me.

Oh, the pain when she isn’t accepted—it’s excruciating, and I want to bury myself beneath the dirt.

But when she is accepted—the joy is intoxicating.

Can I stand strong and truly let myself be seen?

Can I accept myself as I am? As I am truly—down to my bones—as confidently as Aspens stand with knobby branches, thin fingers reaching for the sky?

Can I accept myself as the sometimes irritated, angry, passionate soul who stomps with frustration when she burns pumpkin bread? The defensive roar when she doesn’t agree?

I sit outside on this crisp autumn day, toes as blue as the overarching sky. I sit under a young orange-leaved tree, gazing at the colors. Breathing slow. I twirl a discarded leaf between my chilled fingers and marvel at the vivid pattern.

I wonder: what can I shed this season?

Maybe, it’s okay that I’m not a famous yoga teacher or the best Elephant editor.

Maybe, it’s okay that I’m not the most renowned Sound Healer in Breckenridge, Colorado.

Maybe, it’s okay I’m not aware of the impact I’m having on the people of the world.

Maybe, I shouldn’t assume I’m invisible, moving unseen.

Maybe, I too, am as marvelously beautiful as this Aspen tree. Simple. Maybe, not every stroller will take the time to marvel at the bountiful beauty I grow into each summer.

Maybe, I can hope that one autumn day, in a quiet meadow, someone will sit under the song of my soul, the color of my whispering laughter, and marvel at how beautiful I am in my simply being me.

And that passerby will twirl a discarded leaf between their fingers, cherishing the gifts I left behind.

I walk down a mountain valley of cascading gold. The autumn leaves ask me to daydream, and with each step the crunch of the earth begs me to listen:

Extend that wonderful gift to your fellow humans and see others not as you judge them to be, but as they desire to be seen. Give others the sweet, freeing permission to be who they are, down to the bones.



Read 8 Comments and Reply

Read 8 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Elizabeth Jane Brumfield  |  Contribution: 45,545

author: Elizabeth Brumfield

Image: Author's Own