As I stand in the forest under a cathedral of Douglas fir and gentle arches of Big Leaf Maple, I am bathed in autumn light. It is a long light full of deep shadows. Hues of gold, red and brown glow against the dark green of sword fern and Oregon grape.
The air seems clearer now than it did in summer and my senses are heightened. With a deep exhalation I settle into listening. Not just listening with my ears but with my whole body. Crows talk raucously. A winter wren sings on its low salmonberry perch. The soft mosses on a nurse log sway like anemones in a gentle current of wind.
A maple leaf catches my eye as it trembles on the branch high above me. It wavers, then cascades down in a spiral fall. The wind picks up and suddenly I am in the midst of great movement. A ballet of dancing leaves drifts gracefully to the forest floor, creating a blanket of autumn colors. Every year I witness this amazing act – the leaves on the trees letting go, and every year it takes my breath away.
This simple gesture of the plants turns my thoughts inward. Shifting winds blow away what is no longer needed. Nature is pruning, composting, distilling form into essence. I, too, am compelled to let go in autumn. After summers’ great abundance and activity I am ready for stillness. I have worked hard to harvest the fruits of the season and turn them to something that will feed me through the cold months – body and soul. And now I can sit back and reflect. What treasured moments will I store in my pantry of memories? What cluttering possessions can I prune away and pass along to someone who needs them? What activities can I let go of so I enjoy life more? How can I focus my energy on what is most vital?
It is easy to get caught in the melancholy of change. It is uncertain and sometimes disorienting, and… change is imminent. I try to remember that it is in the art of letting go that new life is made possible. I trust that those falling leaves are not perishing – they are distilling into something that will fuel new growth.