Trees and leaves. As mindful awareness makes the passing of the seasons impossible to ignore, the humble tree stands to symbolise the ebb and flow, change and movement and rhythms and cycles which govern all of our lives. From my favourite yoga pose to the creation of ritual, here’s why I love trees so very much and how and why I have taught myself to love Autumn.
A love of trees has been present since my early childhood when we moved to a rural village and I happily spent all daylight hours roaming the countryside on my bike, searching for the perfect spots to hide away, undisturbed, with my books. The tallest tree in our village stood right outside my bedroom window and, other than the night of the 1987 hurricane when things felt a bit scary, that mighty tree brought me nothing but joy and peace. Even before I had the vocabulary and insight to be able to articulate why, I instinctively knew that that tree could be a great teacher and as my teenage insecurities and upsets played out in my life, I returned again and again to that tree. For hours I could sit and watch its leaves certain in the knowledge that those leaves weren’t spending any of their precious life worrying about how to be or what to say or how they were perceived. Leaves knew how to be leaves. They just did. They couldn’t be anything else and they were utterly perfect at being leaves. I figured, therefore, that if leaves could do it, then, damn, so could I, and I would resolve to endeavour to be more comfortable being me, just as I was. Turns out it wasn’t that easy and I decided that leaves probably had an advantage in this area seeing as they didn’t have consciousness, memories, friends or school to contend with. But the feeling never went away; that the tree in its simple complexity could teach me a thing or two about life.
If the leaves I studies were vibrating energy particles and, well, so was I, then it was also obvious to me that the tree and I must be connected in some way and that the barriers which separated us were, in fact, illusionary. I truly loved this tree and would sit up, even in the depths of winter, wrapped in a blanket by the open window, listening to her creaking and rustling in the dark and would experience the deepest form of comfort and spiritual connection.
This appreciation has never left me. Even though my daughters are older now, I still collect beautiful leaves in autumn, in the hope that we might paint them or create a collage. I still try to catch falling leaves before they touch the ground to give to my girls and on which they can make a wish. I get ridiculously excited at the sight of the first leaf buds in spring and love watching them unfurl over the coming weeks until the forest is transformed into a soft, rich emerald city of life and abundance and beauty. That fresh, pale, virgin green of newly opened leaves decorating the land; surely there is no more beautiful a sight on earth. And now, six months later standing at the opposite side of the orbit and everything is turning golden, curling, drying and shedding. I adore this time of year. Nature is showing us just how beautiful it can be to let go of things. To transform. The simple, moving beauty of allowing the natural way of things to flow in your life, to move with the changes, the cycles of growth, death and re-birth. To let nature be your guide. I used to find it so sad and depressing, watching the trees turn and shed. I thought they were losing their beauty and their vitality. Now I see it differently. The trees are silently calling to us, putting on the most glorious show as they transform from green to autumnal; fiery reds, oranges, yellows showing us so clearly that this colouration and transformation is the beautiful process of letting go. Look on with gratitude. This glorious transformation happening in front of our eyes; we are a part of it. We too follow seasons and cycles throughout our lives, throughout each year, month and day. All we need to do is attune ourselves to them; the seasonal shifts, the waxing and waning moon, our ever-shifting moods and emotions. Our periods of productivity and creativity come and go. Our family, children and relationships; all in flow. Everything moving and changing. It’s painful to grasp for certainty. It’s tempting to long for pause, to freeze moments in time, to resist the upheaval and upset of change. As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus realised, ‘life is flux,’ and the only constant in that life is change. Resistance only causes suffering and sadness. So, I urge you, get outside, gaze in awe and wonder at the autumnal trees. Touch them, breathe in the delicious, intoxicating smell of autumn and see the beauty in letting go.