Favorite Time of Year
Autumn was particularly beautiful in Dallas last year. Rich crimsons, vibrant oranges, and luminous yellows with variations, depth, and intensity we rarely see here. Not many things about 2020 were perfect, but horticulturally, the conditions for a beautiful fall in North Texas were one of the year’s most memorable blessings.
Autumn has always been my favorite season. The ease with which nature releases and lets go is inspiring. It is a message of trust most profound.
Every year, autumn demonstrates how she willingly participates in the transitional nature of life and its attendant peace. It is an annual display of gentle surrender borne of a deep, cellular knowing that change is safe and all is well.
Last fall, it was not just the color explosion that caught my breath but the profound appreciation I felt for it. Sheltering in place during a global pandemic, with little refuge or company save for my garden, there was no taking autumn for granted. No, if ever there were a year when I was primed to find grace wherever I could, it most certainly was 2020.
In addition to its beauty, the autumn of 2020 was a time when we all, both young and old, were presented with the reality of death in a way few of us in modern, peaceful societies ever have had to face. In centuries past, the end of life was not something from which it was possible to be completely insulated. When wakes were held at home and family members were buried in cemeteries on homestead land, a healthy understanding of the reality, normalcy, and, indeed, the inevitability of death were ever present.
Optimism During a Time of Loss
When I first heard death referred to as “making one’s transition,” it sounded overly euphemistic—an avoidance of the D-word. But as my ear grew accustomed to the phrase, I realized this had been the perspective, if not the phrasing, with which I was raised. My mother always referred to death as “just another phase of life.” It held no fear for her. Even though her great love, my father, had died tragically at the age of only 32, devastating her heart and our little family, she always managed to hold the perspective that the pain she felt was for her own loss of a husband and father to their two little girls, not fear of what death meant for him.
I believe the design of life is divine, all of it. The living of it and the transitioning from it.
Nature knows this, but many of us have forgotten and thus create our own suffering by resisting this sacred step. Thinking of death as the end does not allow for the beauty of the mystery. The unfolding of the majestic unknown. The possibility that what comes next could be an ecstatic experience of peace. An expansion of consciousness beyond what we can imagine. What if in death the joy and fulfillment we strove for in life washes generously over us, swaddling us in the warm, deep peace of understanding? What if death is actually enlightenment?
By peacefully embracing the inevitability of death, be it distant or near, our current life becomes exponentially more vivid. Knowing life is ephemeral sharpens the senses and reminds us of the profound gift each day gives.
We as a society tend to place most value on things that are rare. Nature’s harvest, though ever abundant, is seasonal by design. When strawberries were only available in the summer for four weeks, they were much more highly valued than they are now that they are available all year. It is the same with our lives. As long as we deny life’s impermanence, we risk not fully savoring or appreciating it.
As I watched the colorful leaves fall in my garden last year, I couldn’t help but notice the grace of their descent. They floated, flipped, swished, and twirled like tiny, golden whirligigs spinning in giddy delight, with nothing to catch them save the soft, welcoming earth.
There is deep wisdom, faith, and grace in nature’s ability to let go.