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Column: In the fall, trees teach us to let go

A column-reflection on fall and its lessons.
fall leaves
Memorial Park in Unity, Sask.

It's not my words, I saw something similar someplace online, but I felt it'd make for a perfect headline for my recent inner monologue. 

I've always liked spring the most. It's been my favourite time of new beginnings. And I've always felt a bit anxious, noticing the first signs of fall. It means summer is almost gone.

Once fall takes over, turning trees yellow, orange and red, almost as if it was giving us that last warm promise that the white, cold world won't last forever, I usually feel as if I'm saying goodbye to someone.

But any change of seasons comes with transformation and offers space for reflection. If spring, for me, is associated with dreaming, making plans and starting, fall makes me look in the rearview mirror, evaluate and reflect on what's around.

So, sitting on the deck the other day, listening to maple trees shuffling the drying leaves, thinking of fields being harvested, turning naked and grey, and watching the still-beautiful fall valley around, I started reflecting on what fall with its changes is actually about. 

Letting go was the main word that came to my mind when I tried to summarize my vision of the process.

Just as trees let go of the leaves to recuperate and open branches for new offspring, in the fall, we can declutter our space and our mind, letting go of stuff that's not used, along with thoughts, plans, visions or relationships that are not ours, don't fit us anymore or just need to go to open up space for new ideas and fresh starts. In the fall, the seasonal change happens naturally and beautifully, so can it be for people, if it happens at the right time.

Trees gradually turn, leaves dry, and when wind and rain come, they drop everything that is ready to go. No tension, no stress, no fight. Trees let go of what is already ready to fall away. Dry leaves whirl and then cover the roots, creating a warm, protective winter blanket.

Just like those leaves, things that shouldn't be in our life anymore should just fall off without much resistance, becoming our cover of experience. Sometimes things we hold on to hurt.

As we are opening space, we can pay attention to what lights us up, what warms us from the inside, and what actually matters. And let go of anything that's dying off, that exhausts us, that doesn't belong and causes frustration and tension.

And once everything that is ready to fall away is gone, only the essentials are left – the roots, the stem and the branches, open for something new when the time comes.

Yes, the new start might not happen instantly. Just like winter doesn't bring any immediate changes, and trees take time before they turn green again. It's fine. We often need those weeks, months or even years to accumulate enough energy for something else. But without opening the space there will be no new growth, even when the time comes.

Today, fall is not considered the end of the year, and I feel it's a tricky and smart gift of time we gave ourselves.

Back in the day, the end of the farming season was the end of the year, and in some cultures it still is. The Hebrew lunar calendar just marked Rosh Hashana, the New Year or literally "head of the year", which varies every time in comparison to the Georgian calendar Canada uses, and in 2023 fell on Sept. 15-17.

But for us, the year isn't done yet. It's too early to wind up, but it's a good time to look at our interim results, mark what helped us and what we let go, and set some goals accordingly. We still have a few months to wrap some projects up, accomplish something that was our last year's resolution list or just get some ducks in a row,

There are still a few months before the year is over, so unlike our ancestors, we still have time to do something before we slow down even further and almost hibernate for winter. But in the fall, it just feels right to do it a bit slower and gentler, out of turmoil, just like the leaves when they dance, falling off trees on a nice sunny September day.