Someone posted an image the other day with a photo of vibrant golden leaves overlaid with this quote: “Fall is about to show us all how beautiful it can be to let things go.” I generally don’t like fall. Aside from my birthday being in October, the whole season is one long, pumpkin spice scented reminder of the impending doom of winter. “How beautiful it can be to let things go!” Actually, no thanks. I’ve been letting things go on the regular the last two years, and the default aesthetic of the process and result has decidedly not been “beautiful.
It sounds really nice to talk about nonattachment or holding things loosely. I wrote once about holding life in like you would a butterfly, gently and with open hands. It’s less inspirational to write about hands open and empty, once the butterflies fly away, or trees standing bare and frozen once all the leaves have fallen. It’s beautiful to let things go, until everything looks dead and void.
I wander around life these days trying to scotch tape leaves back on to trees, stretching out seasons that are passing and fading much to my dismay.
“There is still life here!” I insist, arms full of crimson and gold already released. I lift my arms high, giving the illusion of being a tree myself, before the Wind rips through and sends all the beauty I’ve gathered flying wild again. “There is still life,” but first things will need to die and lie dormant.
I don’t think letting go is beautiful, and I don’t think death is a sweet passing. My heart is a reformer, if we can just adjust, adopt, heal, reevaluate, discern, reconstruct…
Sometimes things just need to die.
I see no beauty in a winter forest though. Surrounded by skeletons of trees that offer no shelter from the biting wind that slices through my layers of wool and down. Thick blankets of snow frosting over where the wildflowers grew, and the butterflies danced. This is all I can think of in this “beautiful” season of letting go: the great season of nothing is next.
Even winter is not as dormant and dead as I think it is, I know this. A woman in my church reminds me every winter that this is the season when groundwater is replenished, and the soil is nourished with the leaves that fell. She explains to me about all the plant varieties that need the deep freeze to produce flowers and food the next season.
I don’t really care about that in winter though, and I cannot keep those things top of mind in the fall. I will be thankful in spring when the sweet winter spinach pokes its tender green through the recently thawed earth. Why do I need to practice gratitude before then?
People want you to be grateful when things are dying, when life is forcing you to let go before you’re ready. Would I ever be ready? “Just think of the good that will come!” Like tulips and crocuses that need to be frozen before they bloom, people want you to think of how beautiful the flowers will be when you’ve just buried your hope for them under frozen mud and snow. Now is not the time to anticipate flowers.
Do we really gain the wisdom of a season if we’re insistent on being thankful for what it will bring in the next? If I am only thankful for the winter because of the benefit it has on spring, then what am I allowing that fallow season to teach me?
Conversely though, if I curse the confetti of leaves cascading vermillion and gold and crunchy brown all around me because I know they signal the coming dead of winter, what wisdom do I miss in my cursing? I don’t have to suppress my sadness to continue to choose wonder. It doesn’t have to be beautiful for me to attend to the wisdom found in letting go.