There's a little saying about fall that I like - it goes something like, "The trees are about to show us how beautiful it is to let things go." I can't agree with this sentiment more. October is my favorite time of year. Where I live, autumn shows itself in majesty and glory. I become so distracted by the colors of the trees and the magical transformation of the Blue Ridge Mountains that my kids often hear me musing, "Oh that's a good tree." And right after they yell, "Mom - the road!" I get so distracted I nearly wreck the car.
The other day I was doing some yard work, I had just finished mowing my lawn and stood in my front yard looking at a beautiful dogwood tree that sits outside our front door. I was tired, hot, and sweaty so I just needed a minute to admire my hard work before I continued. The day was very still and very quiet - it felt good to just stop and listen to the silence for a minute. And then I heard something I had never heard before. Well, I probably have heard it many times but never noticed. I heard the little dogwood tree release a leaf and I heard that leaf topple from its branch. It struck a few other branches on its way down and then I heard it land amongst those who had gone before it.
I heard that tree letting go. I wondered how does it decide to let go of THAT leaf at THAT moment. Oh, I know trees do not have mind, soul, and spirit like us - they don't really make decisions - but I love to anthropomorphize. Anyhow, I know the science behind the leaves falling but at that moment I wondered how that tree or any of us decide to let things go. I mean, there are very logical times in life when we let go of things because we no longer need them - like training wheels, or braces for our teeth. There are other times we must let go of people - either because they are literally dying or because the relationship we had that was once fruitful no longer brings joy or life to us.
How about when we have to let go and it's a surprise or it shocks us? The letting go of dreams or expectations. The letting go of a child whom we raised for so long and took great care to keep healthy and safe. There is the letting go of things like belief systems, habits, or hurts that once harmed us. Just like the trees, we go through seasons of letting go - it's a constant process. We take off and we put on. We release and we grow. We remake ourselves over and over as we age.
I don't think I particularly enjoy the process of letting go. If I were that tree, the sound of my leaf falling would be more like a shriek or a scream. But the little dogwood let go so gracefully, so quietly - if I hadn't been so still I would have missed it. It has encouraged in the past couple of weeks since I had this experience to sit back quietly and listen to the letting go. The other day we took our college-aged daughter out for her birthday. Gone are the days of five year olds running around my home making it messy and sticky with their celebrations. No, this time, we drove three hours to see her in her college town. Her dad and I stood back as she and her sisters joked and teased each other with inside sibling jokes. They walked ahead of us about town and we walked behind them and I could hear the letting go.
I'm praying that I will learn to be quiet in the letting go moments so that I can hear all of it. So I can hear the leaves bounce off the branches and land among the others. So I can hear the laughter or the tears and not constantly cover it all up with busy noises and hard work. I'm praying for more stillness and more knowing that God is amidst and among all of the letting go in this life.