the lesson of the falling leaves

the leaves believe
such letting go is love
such love is faith
such faith is grace
such grace is god.
i agree with the leaves.

-Lucille Clifton

It is autumn. The leaves are painted, and even though they are more muted and muddy here so close to the city they are nevertheless dazzling me with their red and gold. And even now they are starting to drift down gently and rest upon the lawn. A man just knocked on my door and asked if I needed someone to rake my leaves. From now until December they will come, the leaf rakers, and I will break down and hire them, one after another, to clear my lawn, the one that had been so well shaded by the huge oaks that surround my property. But today I say, “No thank you”. Perhaps the trees are ready to let go of their leaves, but me I am still not ready.

In Chinese medicine, autumn is considered the season of grief and letting go. It is the season of pruning away all that is not needed, so as to better prepare the way for the deep dark winter of unknowing. It is the season that we, I, must admit that as the bounty of the late summer goes into storage the full, ripe time is done.

I have been reflecting on all the ways I hold on, to the joyful summer, to my attachments, to my expectations. I realize now that the trees are calling to me to join them. Life is now calling me into a place of letting go.

I am also realizing that I am not well practiced at the art of letting go. When I am faced with a goodbye or a retreat, I fight it. And, of course I lose that fight every time. The autumn comes. The leaves go. People move on. Life changes, always changes. The trees grow dormant and rest, preparing to be brilliant again in the spring. It happens whether I like it or not. It happens.

Letting go brings such grief for me.  And this grief is my bell.

This month I am embracing the lesson taught to me by the trees–the trees who let their leaves go. Here are just a few things I am doing to practice this letting go:
1. I will end my guitar lessons early, not begging Jeff to stay and play just one more song for me. I will let my favorite evenings pass without holding onto the sweetness of them.  I will do it consciously.
2. I am continuing on my quest to declutter the house. Every day I am making sure to find one thing I no longer use or need and will donate it.
3. I will breathe and concentrate of letting go of the breath that just brought me life. I will focus on the out breath.
4. I will bow to life as it is. When I find myself forming expectations about how I want it to go or how I think it should go I will stop and thank life for appearing just as it is.
5. I will wear a bell and every time it rings I will use it as a wake up call to detach from whatever it is that I am attached to at that moment.

What about you? What ways do you practice letting go?

4 Responses to “The Lesson of the Falling Leaves”

  1. melanie Says:

    the ever present letting go of trying to be
    perfect.
    to embrace ALL of me!
    that is my quest!

    i do this by asking questions when i don’t know.
    to let my mistakes be seen.
    to relax when someone calls attention to my lack of knowing
    in a certain area.
    to let go of clinging to the notion that being good at something
    means perfect.
    to let go of constantly ‘doing’

    sending you warm wishes. 🙂

  2. Patricia Dolan Says:

    What am I letting go of????

    Family members approval of who I interact with;
    Living up to society’s expectations of how I ‘should’ live my one life;
    Living a celibate life;
    No longer suppressing what matters to me though others won’t approve;
    Living inauthentically
    Letting go of my baby girl who I miscarried
    Letting go of my July 11th birthday when the RE’s office called and informed me that I would most likely miscarry and then I did
    Letting go of not celebrating a birthday this year
    Just letting go….

    Trish
    patriciadolan@comcast.net

  3. Wendy McDonagh-Valentine Says:

    Hi Meg. I just love your description of autumn and the trees letting go of their leaves and how you “aren’t practiced in the art of letting go.” This is my most favorite time of the year but I’m going into this autumn with a definite feeling of sadness. My sister has cancer. She just turned 35 last week. I haven’t spoken to her in about three weeks now. She only lives a couple of miles away from me but doesn’t want to speak with myself or our other sister. There are three of us. I’m the eldest and my sister with cancer is the youngest. We always seemed to be at different places in our life and never made a deep connection that sisters often make. She is 6 years younger than me and 4 years younger than our middle sister. I think that she is angry for having this horrible disease that could very well take her life early and she is directing her anger at my sister and I. She wasn’t even speaking to my mother up until a couple of weeks ago. They have a bit of a relationship now but barely. Everything is on my sister’s terms and my mother is so afraid that she’ll be ordered out of her life again that she just takes what she can get and doesn’t make any waves. This is a whole long story that would take lots of time to tell. Basically, I wanted to say thank you for sharing your thoughts. I can relate to a lot of them. I know when I’m losing my connection to Divinity because I can’t seem to get out of my own way and things start to look and feel hopeless. As soon as I reconnect, I can let things go and trust that everything is falling into place the way it’s supposed to be.

    On another note, your son sounds like a wonderful boy and that he can go with the flow. Kids are very resilient. I’ll bet he had a great time being with lots of different people for the weekend. I’m sure your friend meant well with what she/he said but now you know they weren’t correct and that must be a relief for you. Why do moms always have to feel so guilty when they spend time away from their children to do something for their self?!!? And being a single mom makes it even worse, doesn’t it?!!!!? Thanks for your words, Meg. ~ Wendy

  4. Wendy McDonagh-Valentine Says:

    Hi again, Meg. I just realized that I commented on both of your last entries in one mixed up kind of way!! Geez!!!! I think you’ll understand what I was trying to say though. Sorry!! : ) ~ Wendy