Softening into Autumn, Leaning into Loss

Autumn is fully upon us now, and I can feel it in the forest.  I was just out hiking and I’m so grateful our woods are juiced up again after last summer’s scratchy-throat dryness.  The mosses drape themselves over stumps and stones, vibrant and unabashed in their deep, vibrant greens.  Giggling gatherings of mushrooms are hunkered in along exposed tree roots, crowding up tree ravines and unabashedly flouncing their seasonal style upon their sponsoring logs.

I guess I’m finally ready to surrender my resistance, and start digging into this season of loss.  Our lives are drenched with loss, as we sometimes slog through these pandemic days. I recognize that I am still enchanted by the delusion that “things will ever go back”, but this habit of clinging to a life that no longer exists draws me further away from the wholeness I seek.

The separation of the leaves from their parental homes is inescapable.  Could we glean some wisdom, or at least acceptance, by attending their voyage into the unknown? Here are Mary Oliver’s ideas:

Don’t you imagine that the leaves
dream now, how comfortable it will be to touch the earth instead of the nothingness of the air…
And don’t you think the trees, especially those with mossy hollows, are beginning to look for the birds that will come…to sleep inside their bodies?
…and don’t you hear the goldenrod whispering goodbye…
The white field…brings out its long, blue shadows.
And in the evening, the piled firewood shifts a little, longing to be on its way.

As the leaves leave, in their drag queen exuberance, we can see what has always been:  the shape of the tree itself.  What seemed to be a loss, reveals that which was hidden, unknown, but always present.  What treasures might we find when we allow everything we’ve known to drop, as it is clearly longing to do?

Nature’s cycles seem to happen gracefully, with the recognition that nothing of this material world can last. What can we do to facilitate this transition, from summer to winter?

From breezy, al fresco dinners in the garden, to the possibility of more time alone, inside, further from the sunshine? From the known to the unknown?

We could try on our leaf costumes, cultivating desire for the letting go.  With freedom sun screen and serving the garden, now we could snuggle into the softest lounging pants and tuck into a bowl of cookie dough.  We might feel nourished by baking and cooking, napping or Netflixing (new verb, now in all dictionaries).  What might happen if we did nothing? Can we stop hurrying from one hope to the next?


The spiritual path offers lasting liberation from the fluctuations of human life, encouraging us to let go of both hope and fear.  “Give up hope?” is the astonished query.  Give up the fear of letting go and the hope that things will go according to your plan.  Let go of wishing away this life that’s here, right before you, saying that it’s still not good enough.  Savor the brilliant gold, crimson and chestnut leaves, as they metamorphose into dust or muck, never to be seen in that same way again.  We can only appreciate the unknown by dropping our expectations, both hopeful and fearful of what will come.

Allow yourself to fall down, onto the soft couch or into a pile of leaves.  Surrender all you’re grasping and feel what is really here.

It might be time to behave more like firewood, to let go of trying to sustain the blossom, fruit and even leaf, beyond its expiration date, and soften into the continuous transformation that is life.

I do hope this is helpful.