Many people associate springtime with renewal and rebirth, but for me the autumnal equinox is equally as important. It is a time to renew our vows to ourselves, and to let go of what doesn’t serve us.
Trees actually go through a process called abscission whereby specialized cells stop sending water to the leaves and the tree actually reabsorbs its nutrients. This fortifies the tree for the dark days of winter. Interestingly, the word abscission comes from the same root word as “scissors:” scindere, which means “to cut” or “split.” In this way leaves do not just “fall” from the trees, they are released with purpose, cut away rather than blown off by the wind; I think this bears a certain intentionality.
I have found this idea of shedding quite pertinent lately. Sometimes our lives feel so full there doesn’t seem to be room for anything else. We have the job, the partner, children, pets, activities, renovations, and social commitments. Sometimes we find ourselves going through the motions. A whole week passes and we ask ourselves, “What did I do for myself this week?” Sometimes we can’t answer. Our lives are too full. We make excuses, “I don’t have time to [journal, paint, exercise, work on my novel, be in nature], I’m just too busy.” As humans, I think we are comfortable being busy. The busy things in our lives are like our leaves: they surround us, keep us feeling warm, useful, and shield us from the scary unknown. This busy work can seem impressive, and keep us looking good on the outside: isn’t a lush green tree more beautiful than a bare one? As a tree, taking care of the leaves is our duty. Right?
When you shed your leaves, or the nest of busy things that demand your attention, you
may feel bare, vulnerable, or uncomfortable. Taking a leap and making a change are scary things. Suddenly, the tree, once surrounded in lush emerald robes, is now bare. Naked and alone it experiences a period of darkness: the cold of winter. The tree may think, “Leaves, come back! I miss you.”
But one day the tree wakes up and sees a lovely view: fractals of light dance across a blanket of fresh snow as the sun peaks above the horizon. “Oh,” thinks the tree, “I would have missed this view had I not shed my leaves.”
I find this to be true in life. Shedding what doesn’t serve us is always scary. But in order to invite new opportunities, relationships, and challenges into our lives we must clear space for them. New leaves can’t grow unless we let the old ones go.
Then, like the tree, we must trust in the universe that spring will come again.