Letting Go When It’s Time

As I stood by the road conversing with cows during a break in my morning run, I became aware of movement in the air around me. I turned and saw the sky filled with Willow Oak leaves, spinning past me like sideways cellulose bullets. It was an impressive defoliation to be so early in the year, and the breeze seemed only to be affecting one or two trees. Other Willow Oaks there weren’t participating. What was going on?

I don’t know. There is so much variety in the ways that deciduous trees go through the process of shedding their leaves. Even within a species, what seems normal for the group probably won’t apply to every individual. When I lived in Florence, there was a large Post Oak in front of my church. This particular tree would annually shed its leaves in the pre-autumn, like late August or early September. Then it would immediately put out a complete new growth of leaves, keeping them a few months, and shedding them again in late November. What glitch of dendric individuality would cause such an unusual schedule?

Autumn, that ripest quarter of our year, is nicknamed “fall” after the deciduous habit. But the actuality of falling leaves spills those calendar boundaries in so many ways. Of course, the region where one’s trees are observed will determine much of the detail. Here in South Carolina, some leaves are changing color before July is gone, particularly Sasafrass and Blackgum, followed a little later by Sweetgum and Persimmon. Last night at a football game, I saw a yellow-and-brown Tulip Poplar leaf lying on the bleacher; looking up, there was the tree, one third of it’s foliage already banana-colored. Water Oaks usually still have green leaves into early January. The leaves of American Beech and White Oak, though they change colors and die during the autumn season, do not “fall” from the trees until new leaves are ready to replace them in April. In all this variety and each version in between, every tree lives its part with beauty and grace. Yet there’s something playful and unpredictable about it all, too.

Fall must not ever be just about gravity. It is more than a leaf’s rendezvous with its shadow. It is more than the colorful glory we drive to the mountains to photograph. Fall is a turning-loose time with God watching the opposite side of every leaf we see move.

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Published in: on August 18, 2007 at 11:33 pm  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. All ministers should be working on their sermon at 11:33 pm on Saturday evening!

    Letting go….required of us all in due time.

  2. But if I work on my sermon on Saturday night, what will I do Sunday morning?

    Welcome to Balance, Jimmie! Nice to have your humor here.

  3. I can really relate to your idea that “fall” is about more than just gravity exerting its power or a change in pigment. Like losing a tooth and having a new one replace it…there is a sense of making room for something fresh, something different, maybe something better. I knew a girl who retained all her baby teeth well into high school. Not only did she have an odd sort of smile, but she also had a hard time chewing! How interesting, this system of renewal, that allows us to grow into something stronger and enables us to take a bigger bite!

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    Response from Steve:
    Nice tooth analogy. And the tooth story shows well another way biological schedules sometimes do their own thing. I went dendritic, and you went dental.

  4. Speaking from my inner cow, of course you know as well as I do that any convesation with the cows concerning anything that happened more than 5 minutes ago (or will happen beyond the next chew) was not fully appreciated by them. However, since my inner cow occupies just a small fraction of my being, I’m happy to be able to take your perspectives with me to tomorrow, and look at a leaf just a little differently. I won’t be letting go of that just yet!

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    Response from Steve:
    You know the species very well, Cowbird! What a graceful way of expressing all of this. Thank you for reading and commenting.


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