When All The Leaves Are Gone

There are maple trees planted all along the streets in my neighborhood, and I pass by them almost every day on my walks. In the Summer, they were fluttering green giants, which turned red and gold in the Fall. Then, all of the sudden it seemed, they dropped their leaves in great gusts and flurries and bared their bones to the darkening sky.

This season is one of revelations—literally, of things being revealed. When the leaves fall from their branches, we can see what has been hidden for half the year underneath the rustling fullness of the canopy: the living architecture of the tree.

For the first time, I can see the places they've been cut or had branches crack off in a storm. The way they twist toward the sun or away from the wind. The places where, miraculously, one long branch becomes two, becomes four, becomes ten, each smaller than the one before it. I notice the way each tree creates a home to other living beings: the long-abandoned nests that once gave chirping chicks a safe refuge. I see lichen and moss clinging to gray bark and wonder about the kind of slow-growing conversations they must have with each other. I watch squirrels scurry up and down the tree trunks, sometimes looking for things to store for Winter, and sometimes I think just for fun.

When the leaves fall away, when all that's left is the essence of a thing, there is still so much richness. There is strength and patience, interdependence and inner fortitude. This time of year, I like to pair down to the basics in my own life. I try to create space to feel into the essential shape of myself and my life, to find where I have grown, where I have faced difficulty, how I have adapted to this dynamic world. I tend to wrap up big projects and adjust my workload so I can go into Winter with my attention on the essentials: nourishing myself, being present with the people I love, spending time in creative practice and exploration, and letting the magic of winter settle in.

I hope, amidst the push and pull of a thousand different winds, that you can feel your essential architecture too—your inner strength, your slow and steady growth, the places deep within yourself where your reserves are stored—and give thanks. I am thankful for you, and wish you a wonderful end to the year.
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