Post by Mark Shipsey
I grew up in New York, 40 minutes east of Manhattan. Summer was magic. Autumn was stunning. My mother, who didn’t drive, would eventually insist on an annual foliage drive in October. Dad would load us up and off we’d go, typically upstate or to Pennsylvania for the weekend. At 10, I found the awe quickly diminish yielding instead to my interest in postseason baseball! My mother, rapt in delight could be heard up front exclaiming the mountain views were like “a patchwork quilt.” A phrase I insist on using myself these days in her honor. “Big deal,” the 10 year old me thought to himself. “Last week they were green, now they’re yellow, orange, and red! They are just dying right in front of you.”
And that’s about the size of it. As the days get shorter and the nights cooler, deciduous trees produce a cork like cell that congests the flow of water and nutrients. Similar to arteriosclerosis, this chokes the green chlorophyll out of the leaf and permits the beautiful pigments we have all come to love in fall foliage. It’s death of a sort.
There is however something gloriously beautiful about the death we witness in wonder every autumn. This death is unto life. The tree, having done its job in manifold ways, doesn’t die it just sort of hibernates. Transitioning into a series of processes that let it rest while the tumult of winter whirls around it, it confidently bides its time until the days lengthen and the nights warm. In my new home of Maine, spring means it’s time for the snow pack to return its borrowed store of moisture that will give new life to those fresh leaves bravely facing their turn at a season in the sun.
Over the past 20 years or so I have also come to love Roses. And I have especially come to appreciate all phases of the flower’s cycle, from bud to spent bloom. There is beauty in all of it, but you have to look to appreciate it. At first I waited for the beautiful bloom as if there was nothing else to see. I’m discovering that it takes the long view to apply the principles and lessons nature has to share with us. I have enjoyed 50 years of life but I think I have only fully noticed about 15 of them. But that’s ok, I’m beginning to get it, I think. So much of my life has been spent on trying to convince both of us that I am who I really am not. What a shame. I have tried earnestly to do the best I can and yet I have tried SO hard in many of the wrong ways. Ugh, I could go on but my point is really to encourage you to be done with the voices of the past that still try to form you as they did when you were a child. It’s good to cry when you hurt. It’s right to grieve loss. It’s wonderful to laugh so hard that you don’t sound like yourself when you’re happy. And it’s healthy to share your feelings. The long view is earned after enough years on this earth to appreciate the whole of life, all of it. Mathematically, you could say it this way, wisdom = learning + time.
This lesson to me about nature is that we are all like the deciduous trees. The difference is that all four seasons take place metaphorically for us simultaneously. In some part of our life it is concurrently spring, summer, fall, and winter. It is natural for some of life’s issues (like leaves) to change, dry, and fall away while others begin new life. If we look at our life as if winter is the end then we have yielded to those voices that restrict us and steal confident self-discovery. Winter is not the end, we are eternal. I have yet to fully grasp what the processes before me lead to but I intend to be unrestricted and unrestrained as I attempt to appreciate every phase of them! Can we learn together to live and die daily and gloriously?
Life is a continual change of seasons. Do you welcome the changes?