Brrrrrr! Has anyone noticed how cold it has gotten this past week? It feels to me like it has been a very abrupt change of the seasons, with fall arriving all at once. It has sort of taken me by surprise—suddenly needing a sweatshirt while sitting at my computer, putting an extra blanket on the bed, closing the windows I so love to keep open all summer. And then that wind! I live near many trees, including a huge palm tree in my front yard, so when the wind blows, I get all kinds of leaves raining down on my yard. Are you noticing the leaves beginning to change color and fall from the trees? I recently spoke with my father, who lives in a suburb outside of Boston, and he told me that the beautiful changing of the colors has begun in New England. I have never seen this phenomenon in person, but would love to some day.
My father and I talked about the sudden cold and how the abrupt change in temperature is actually what causes the leaves to change color. The cold snap signals the leaves to stop creating chlorophyll, which is what gives them their green color, and without the chlorophyll the leaves’ natural color is what shows through. So you see, the leaves have not really changed or lost anything, but rather they have released something that no longer serves them. This release, this letting go, allows their natural colors—beautiful oranges, golds, reds, and yellows—to show through. I think by now you have noticed that I am a fan of spiritual metaphors, especially those that pertain to the natural world. The changing of the leaves’ colors seems like a particularly beautiful metaphor to me—when we willingly release what no longer serves us, our beautiful essential nature is able to shine through. This beauty is a blessing to all who encounter it.
As I prepare my Sunday sermons this month, with our topic of death and dying, I have been thinking a lot about the metaphor of fall and the leaves falling from the trees. I decided to have a look at a classic book about death I remember my mom reading me when I was a child—The Fall of Freddie the Leaf by Leo Buscaglia. Have you read it? There are so many spiritual gems in this beautiful little book that has helped children understand the concept of death for many generations. Daniel, the wise leaf in the story, explains many things about life to Freddie the Leaf such as the fact that we all have different colors because we are all unique and we all have a unique “reason for being” or purpose in life. That purpose involves “making things more pleasant for other people.” One of Freddie’s favorite reasons for being is providing shade for the older folks who come to the park to sit and rest.As Daniel explains to Freddie that the leaves are beginning to fall to the ground—what some call “dying,” he says—Freddie becomes afraid. He doesn’t know what will happen down below. He doesn’t know what death will be like. Daniel reassures him that no one knows for sure what death will be like and it’s natural to be afraid of the unknown. Then he reminds him, however, that Freddie was not afraid when the changes of spring and summer came. Why should he be afraid of death? Freddie wants to know if the tree will die too, and if the leaves will come back again in the spring. Daniel explains that everything dies but there is something that lasts forever that we are all a part of–Life. The tree may not return, but Life will. The leaves themselves may never return as such, but Life will.
And so as we move into this season of release, of letting go, this is what we hold fast to—individual lives may come and go, but Life itself is never-ending. As we practice learning to accept the impermanence of life, that everything is always changing, that all living things must die, we put our faith in the fact that Life—that vast energy of intelligence, of love, of beauty and peace and joy and grace that we call God—is infinite. When we let go, we do not plummet into the abyss, but rather we fall into the loving arms of Spirit. The infinite love of God catches us, sustains us, and helps us to surrender to the ongoing mystery of this human life.
Many Blessings to you all this week! Rev. Michelle