It’s a beautiful late autumn day on our ridge. What image comes to mind reading those words? Blazing autumn color highlighted by warm Indian summer sunshine perhaps. Not so.
While this has been one of the most dramatically colorful and extended fall seasons in Western North Carolina, today the leaves are more brown than bright and a deep mist fills every open space and blurs distant views. Being forced to take a close-up look at nature past its peak is a wonderful meditation on life past adulthood.
Just a few months ago I lost my Mom. And now the landscape is losing luster and the forest is losing its green and gold and red and orange. I could easily become overwhelmed by so much loss. I might even say I’m also past my prime. I know I’m not alone. Many of us who have lived long, by now, have experienced the disappearance of life-enhancing leaves, relatives gone from the family tree and friends with whom we shared twisted roots. Some friends are worried, saying, “We’re next.” Some are denying that they’re aging at all.
But nothing in nature is really lost; it is transformed. Crunching through the deep mulch of fallen leaves covering the forest trail, I realize that the memories and experiences I shared with the people I cared about, all of that – even the experience of losing them – is now a rich substance supporting me, providing warmth in remembering and nourishment in lessons learned that will help me through the coldest days yet to come.
Have at me, winter. Take your best shot, old age. I’m not afraid.
Even on this bleak day, with dull replacing brilliant, with my bones creaking and my eyesight telling me not to drive after dark. I’m OK with impermanence. The fog and clouds will move on just as surely as the golden sun rose steadily above the smoky mountains two days ago, eclipsing an
intense pink and lavender sunrise. There were stars in the dark, then it was purple, magenta, lavender, and, oh, the rays and power of the burgeoning sun and a new day was born into Carolina blue and white. Nothing stays the same, and there’s always something to delight in if we stay open and aware.
Here’s what I noticed on today’s walk that reinforced my belief that what has gone from awesome color to muted silhouettes is still worthy of notice. Past one’s peak, I say, is not the same as over-the-hill.
Life takes many forms, rough, smooth, clinging, falling, sturdy, vulnerable. “To every thing, a purpose under heaven.” Is there any part of your life or our relationships that you’ve been undervaluing?
The blemishes, the imperfections, what’s not there now, but used to be – signs of life lived. The key to adaptation: acceptance of what is; making room for what must come next. What might be the positive side of any challenging bumps in the road you are following right now?
The boomer generation has impacted the broader society as we passed through every stage of life. As Elders some may see the sheer number of us as an extraordinary relic of the past. What talents, resources, philosophies and attitudes maystand out in sharp contrast to those of younger generations?
In the past two months, so many people have focused their cameras on the uplifting beauty of the trees’ season’s end. I am inspired by it all – what’s been, what’s still here, what’s coming next. We may be down, but not done yet. Shine on, Boomers, shine on.