Falling Leaves

“Nature Heals” is a four-part series exploring how the forest, ocean, and mountains can help develop a deeper understanding of peace through grief…

Last weekend, my sister and I dove into the last of my parents’ personal “stuff” – the final drawers to discover since my mom passed. It had taken us a while to build up to this task.

We peacefully explored the contents which ranged from hand-written notes, ancestral jewelry, the remains of our parents’ wedding bands – which were cut to make my mother a necklace after my father died – down to a stack of old love letters and cards. We made decisions around every item, laughed and shed a few tears. It was wonderful, yet taxing, and I realized what I needed most after that was a serious dose of nature.

The next morning I ventured to a nearby state park. Growing up in Washington state, the forest is a place of tremendous healing for me, so that’s where I set off to. I decided that my journey would not be a hike (although part of me really craved the exercise). It would be a slow, mindful, meditative walk so that I could watch every leaf fall, spot every mushroom, hear every bird, feel every breeze. I wanted to stop and connect with each tree. I wanted to embrace myself in the forest and feel it’s healing powers.

(As more background, you can read Monday’s post: The Forest, The Trees)

Being Autumn in the Northwest, the leaves were indeed falling.

After stopping to watch one leaf’s adventures, I captured my thoughts:

What a gift
 to watch a leaf fall
 dancing through the air
 on its way from one home
 to the next
 settling lightly on a branch
 or a fern
 or a soft pine needle bed
 resting
 looking back
 at its delightful journey

In that moment, the leaf falling became a metaphor for life and death.

There were many circumstances that contributed to each leaf falling; was the leaf ready to detach? Was the wind blowing just right? Was there a clear path to the ground? Each time with circumstances were right, the leaves complied, heading toward their new home on the forest floor, or somewhere in between.

The leaves appeared not to judge the transition to their new home. Instead they danced their way, joyously. And as they landed, they looked back, reflecting on their journey. They considered how they grew from a bud to a leaf, how they played with their community of leaves through the spring, and how they departed their branch, seeing for the first time different parts of their tree and the forest – seeing their world in a new light – heading to the ground, where it will turn to compost for the next generation of leaves.

When we embrace nature, she will remind us of our true home, the home of the continuation of life, of impermanence, and of peace. Nature always has the power to bring the peace we need to face our grief. This time, it was in the leaves…

– Jess

 

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