Autumn: Embracing Transition

by Melissa Taft
Birch blooms

photos and writings by Elaine Breckenridge

This afternoon, I admired our young birch tree as it has now developed more yellow leaves than green leaves. A few leaves have fallen as well. We have had high winds today and there are more leaves in our backyard that have been on the move. I am reminded of two verses written in a poem by Edward Hays, in his book, Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim.

Brisk is the breeze of autumn tide 

which sweeps in its path 

crowds of leaves from countless trees,

collecting them in amber-colored communities 

to share bright memories of the summer sun.

“Dust we are and to dust we shall return,”

sing orange-brown leaves, 

as they circle-dance and cluster

in colonies of the dead.

I have not always admired autumn. While all of the seasons include elements of change; autumn has often brought me bouts of sadness and depression. I could never articulate why, until I read this, “Autumn speaks of connection and yearning, wisdom and aging, transformation and surrender, emerging shadows, and most of all, mystery.” The Circle of Life, Joyce Rupp & Macrina Wiederkehr.

I used to resist this season of transition, with its yearning, aging, surrender and mystery. I did not like watching the leaves fall to the ground, knowing that I would not see new green leaves for months. It reminded me of my own aging and my difficulty in facing my shadow. Mystery was not appealing. Then, studying transition, I learned, “All human transition follows a natural process of disorientation and reorientation that marks the turning points on the path of growth.” Transition: Making Sense of Life’s Changes, William Bridges.  

There you have it. I do not like the feeling of disorientation! I like to know where things are, where I am, and where everyone else is. Obviously, I have a hard time with moving. There is always that moment when trying to settle into a new place, I cannot find what I need when I need it. Yes, autumn is a metaphor for my own fear of change and of course powerlessness. This fear began to add more stress to my already stretched life. I was invited to dig deeper when I read,  

“Autumn invites us to let go, to yield…. yes, to die. We are encouraged to let things move in our lives. Let them flow on into some new life form just as the earth is modeling these changes for us.” The Circle of Life

The earth is modeling these changes for us. I took that to heart and turned to Mother Nature as my mentor. I began to follow the tides. Living on Camano Island in Washington state is an island governed by the tides. It has taught me about the reality of transition and change. While I know that every six hours the landscape will look different, when it happens, it is both familiar and strange at the same time. Just when I think I know what to expect with the changing tide—surprise! Whether low tide or high tide, every day here on Camano Island, the land and the water look different. Sometimes there are logs to climb over or paths washed out. I am learning to take it in my stride. 

English Boom Flooded steps final 

Watching and breathing with the rhythm of the tides and noticing how often the landscape changes has become an icon into understanding the movement of the Spirit in my life. Whether it is the energy and growth of the incoming flood tide or the waning and diminishment of the outgoing ebb tide—I am seeing that the Eternal Spirit is like the changing tides and is constantly inviting me to ride its ebb and flow. She has taught me to accept that life and my life are in a constant rhythm of change. She is inviting me to drop my expectations about what the landscape of my life should look like. She has taught me about the importance of acceptance, non-attachment, and surrendering to “what is.”     

Thanks to being schooled by the tides, I am no longer sad to see the coming of autumn. In fact, I like the slow transition of the season of “fall color.” The Creator gave us a gift in the colors of fall, splashing around such beauty before the trees are left with naked branches!  Naked branches reveal aspects of the landscape we may have never noticed before. I am grateful for the gift of fresh eyes and an open heart to appreciate autumn. I give thanks to God for leading me to bless all that is. And so, I pray, 

Blessed are you autumn, 

with your flair for drama 

you call to the poet in our hearts, 

“Return to the earth, become good soil 

wait for new seeds.”

Blessed are you autumn

season of unpredictability. 

You inspire us to be flexible 

to learn from our shifting moods. 

Blessed are you, autumn 

season of surrender 

you teach us the wisdom of letting go 

as you draw us into new ways of life.

        –The Circle of Life, Joyce Rupp & Macrina Wiederkehr

Ezra leaves edit  

As autumn draws us into new ways of life, perhaps, embracing autumn and transition means re-learning how to let go into a fall with the curiosity and wonder of a child.

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