Autumn is about death and dying. It’s about clearing away things which are finished — before a period of dormancy and healing which can give way to rebirth.
See those yellow leaves which are slowly developing brown spots and shriveling? I’ve been watching those leaves and the ones around them for about seven or eight months.
A limb of a huge tree has a tiny offshoot which hangs near my front porch. Every time I leave the house, I see those leaves. I watched them grow from nothing last spring. As the weather started turning warm and everything in nature started coming alive again, I saw tiny shoots of green that turned into beautiful shade for my yard.
By summer, they were beautifully lush and green. They joined with thousands and thousands of other leaves to form an amazing canopy — seemingly just for me — and they were a delight to see each time I stepped outside and started down my steps.
But this is what they look like Sunday afternoon. Are they already dead? Are they still alive but slowly dying? I don’t know. All I know is that nature dictates that what was once bright green new life has once again gone through a cycle of amazing vibrancy and is now heading toward death.
As I took the time to look closely at those leaves Sunday afternoon, it occurred to me that humans could learn a lot from nature — especially about the necessity of letting some things die so new things can take their place in due time.
We fight death — not just the death of our own bodies but the death of everything familiar to us.
We tend to fight change because we’re afraid of the unknown. We’re quietly terrified to let go of things which no longer serve our needs or which have run the course of their natural lives.
So we stick with jobs or careers we hate instead of finding something new.
We cling to dead romantic relationships which make everyone unhappy — we even pretend they’re still alive — because change is scary and we’re afraid of being alone or somehow losing something.
We hold onto ideas and beliefs and habits which we were taught, things which we know aren’t right for us — maybe never were — but which are familiar.
If nature operated the way we do, there would be some force that spent autumn gluing dead leaves back onto trees and painting them green to fake the life they once had. There would be some way of pretending it wasn’t time for the death of the leaves and the dormancy of parts of the natural world.
Instead, nature makes autumn a glorious time of beauty and death which celebrates life. The green of spring and summer give way to red and gold and brown — with everything slowly fading and crumbling to a dust which returns to the soil.
We don’t mourn this because we know life will return after the winter has come and gone.
We need to see a lot of things in our lives the same way. We need to let go of things which no longer serve us. We need to gently release relationships, careers, habits and beliefs which we have outgrown.
Death has to come to all of those things — possibly even followed by uncertainty, turmoil, pain or tears — before things can become dormant in us long enough to create a space for something better — for new life.
So here’s to the death of what has to pass away — in anticipation of the glorious rebirth that’s coming.
These leaves will fall off and break apart any day now. Winter is coming.
But spring is coming, too. And there will then be new life — and new leaves — to take their place.
There are things in your life — and in my life — which are dead or dying. We need to have the courage and foresight to let them go. We need to let them die.
There is a new relationship.
There is a new job or career.
There is a new way of thinking or seeing or believing.
There are a million new possibilities for your life. You have amazing choices. But none of that new life can happen for you until you let go of what’s already dead.
Let it go.
It’s time to start all over. That’s how life works.