Here in New England we’re at the peak of the fall foliage. It’s the magical time of year when the leaves on the trees change from green to many shades of blood orange, red, bright yellow, and rust. Driving through the back roads of Massachusetts the other day, the colourful leaves along with the slight grey sky reminded me that fall is here and winter is around the corner. The air is crisp and beauty is all around. God was present in all this for me.
But what I realised is that the beauty of the leaves’ colour change is a result of the leaves’ annual dying. The green of their chlorophyll decomposes, revealing other natural pigments in the leaves which give us the palate of yellows, reds, and oranges we see each autumn. The trees remind us of the cyclical nature of life on this planet and the necessity of death. After all, come springtime those leaves that had fallen a few months earlier will be replaced by the new life of new leaves.
The topic of death can be very taboo among us human beings. We have self-awareness, a consciousness we so prize that we fear losing it for eternity! There is a depth to our relationships that animals do not have that can elevate our fear of death even more. But stepping back, we acknowledge the generations and generations and generations of people who preceded us in our family. We would not be here if it were not for our ancestors. And isn’t there great beauty in that, even though those ancestors no longer exist? As each leaf carries with it the DNA of its ancestors, we carry that same “legacy” in our being. Death gives way to future beauty in the cycle of on-going creation begun and sustained by God through the eons. God’s power and being exists in the cycles of our living and dying. It’s a marvellous plan of creation that renews and progresses.
For those who are enthusiastic leaf peepers, they determine which week is the peak time for colour during the foliage season. They know that even just a day or two later may mean those bright oranges and reds become brown and bare. Like leaves, humans have a time limit on earth. The plan of creation reminds us that we must cherish and take advantage of the time we have: for our purpose and vocation. Sometimes putting off something meaningful means we miss the chance for the brightest colours. We need to live with and act with the cycles given to us by God. We inherit a legacy but we also leave one. The leaves on the trees are a great motivator to take a look at how we’re living our lives.
What am I putting off? Am I making the most of my limited time? How can I see death differently and not through a lens of fear?
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Music by Kevin MacLeod