Everyone from a state that experiences winter knows that in the autumn, the leaves fall off trees. Right? Right.
But have you ever wondered why the leaves fall off? Or what prompts them to begin falling in the first place?
It all begins with a cascade of hormonal changes in the tree. Chlorophyll declines, as do auxins, signaling to the tree that it is time to begin the act of self preservation: cutting all unnecessary energy expenditures that could be fatal in the frigid winter. With shorter days and less daylight, leaves are no longer worth the energy they require to maintain.
The leaves change color as they lose the chlorophyll that normally keeps them green. As they lose their chlorophyll, the tree stops receiving signals that the leaves are healthy and cuts them loose.
This, my friend, is the science of beautiful fall colors and large leaf piles.
The afternoon sun back-lit a blue Ford truck loaded to the brim with items that had filled our Minnesota house. I brushed the dust off my pants, half relieved that we had managed to complete the task, half anxious at the thought of parting with these goods.
We were in Iowa, and had just spent the morning sorting through our belongings that had been in storage for a little over a year. When we came to Florida, we only brought two car loads full. We had rented a fully furnished condo, and by fully furnished, I mean down to towels, kitchenware, even Christmas decorations.
And now here we were, back to look at the objects that made up most of our daily life back in Minnesota. Objects that we had packed up, not knowing where we would land or when we would see them again.
We did just fine without our “stuff”. Thrived, actually. But the moment I saw our boxes, I couldn’t wait to rip them open and soak in the presence of inanimate objects. Objects that I couldn’t even remember.
Mainly I loved looking at everything because it stirred old memories that my brain had filed in the deep abyss of unnecessary memories.
I hugged a quilt that my Dad’s employee had made as a gift for Avery prior to her birth. The quilt remained on her bed from the moment we weren’t concerned about SIDS all the way up until we left Minnesota.
I found the 3 candles that I bought right before Chad and I got married. I purchased these candles to decorate our little downtown Minneapolis apartment prior to our wedding so when we returned home from our honeymoon, it would look Christmassy.
The scent of these candles evokes immediate thoughts of fireplaces with cackling fires, cozy sweaters, and the excitement of Christmas preparations.
We went through each box to determine what would be helpful in our new home; more so, what we couldn’t bear to part with. As for the rest, we cut it loose, knowing that its baggage outweighed the benefit.
We pared down our belongings from a trailer-full to 17 boxes that we mailed to Florida.
It was another goodbye. It was a goodbye that was easier than hugging family and friends goodbye, but a tough one, nonetheless.
Having a trailer full of things in storage back in Iowa had been like a security blanket. Mentally, I was able to tell myself that there was still a good chance that we would return home, and settle down in the Midwest, close to family.
The goodbye to our stuff was a goodbye to a hope for a future in the Midwest; an alternative life path that always played in the back of my brain.
These leaves were no longer helping us. Instead, they were an energy expenditure that was no longer beneficial for us to cling on to.
After shipping off the last of our things in storage, we drove from Iowa to Minnesota to celebrate my brother’s wedding.
I soaked in the beauty of a Minnesota fall. The leaves were a magnificent array of colors. The air had a crisp feel to it.
I moaned. Chad raised an eyebrow. “I just wish we could live here in the fall, it is so gorgeous.” To which he retorted, “Yeah, but it only lasts 3 weeks and then the leaves are gone and it’s negative 30 out.”
Certainly, he has a point. The tree’s do lose their beautiful leaves. And it is sad. They hunker down for a bleak winter, looking rather barren without their leaves. But by spring, they wake up from their dormancy and create buds, flowers, and leaves.
Maybe the trees have something to teach on letting go. They do it every year, saying goodbye to the leaves that make up a large part of their appearance- of how we identify them- of who they are.
Sometimes we have to let go to survive. Sometimes, a part of us that was once helpful and healthy is no longer, so despite our positive memories, we must cut it loose.
Sometimes we have to let go to create space for what can be, and what will be. We have to let go to find space to more tightly hold on to the things we love.
Happy Fall, y’all,