Spring has always been my favorite season. There is something about flowers blooming, grass growing and the germination process that invigorates me. Spring reminds me that a new season is coming and it ignites hope.
I am discovering that autumn deeply resonates with me as well. When I reflect on the season of fall and what it represents, I am both encouraged and in awe. I am prompted to remember that everything has its time and season. Autumn is the transition season between summer and winter. It is the time when the leaves on trees change colors, fade and eventually shed. It is when the ground hardens and turns cold, ushering in the season of winter preparing the earth for what it will birth in spring and summer. That in itself is a miracle. It is the circle of life.
Some weeks ago, I had an intimate conversation with a dear friend who also battles chronic illness. We were speaking about nature and how she believes we are spiritually connected to anything that lives. She shared how the trees in autumn are reflective of the way she viewed chronic illness and those of us living with it. My friend recounted that just as the trees shed and transition in autumn, they also grow, transform and sprout new leaves. My friend said this is what we do in illness. I returned home and thought about this concept for weeks. I pondered what autumn represents to me and I thought of the best way to elucidate all that I feel.
A tree is regal and spirited in nature with durable roots. Those roots are underground and they are the solid foundation on which the tree stands. The branches and the leaves are extensions of the tree. Branches grow in different directions and at times may bend or break. The leaves change color and eventually will cascade onto the ground; yet, the tree itself still stands. It must go through these changes to bear the winter and it never loses its foundation. The branches and the leaves are parts of the tree, yet the tree can be independent of those parts. The change and the loss of its parts do not stop the tree from existing. The purpose of the tree reaches far beyond its leaves or branches.
As people who battle chronic illness, we are continually transforming and weathering seasons, both literally and figuratively. On any given day our symptoms can vary. We may have one really good day and six terrible ones, or we may have two horrible days and five great ones. We never know. What we know for sure is that regardless of our illness and symptoms, our foundation remains intact. We may feel as if we are not ourselves, yet our essence is immutable. Our spirits far exceed any physical agility and expectations. Our bodies, metaphorically our branches and leaves, may bend, twist and lose certain abilities, yet our roots remain.
Our purpose and character are embedded in us, and because of this we endure. The trees have learned to welcome the autumn season knowing they ultimately will survive. They brave the storms and losses. Day by day, we do the same. We are learning that in due time something beautiful will arrive.
Many of us have learned great lessons in illness and we have discovered what we are earnestly made of. We have formed alliances and connections that have changed our lives. In the most ironic way, some of us discovered the difference between merely existing and truly living.
Therefore, as the seasons change, in autumn I am reminded of the power of transformation and I am optimistic about what the future holds. I am certain the winter will prepare for the birth of and rejuvenation of something beautiful in the spring. I am prompted to recollect that even as the leaves change and shed, at the appointed time they once again will grow more beautiful and vibrant than they were before.
I believe the greatest lesson is that through it all, the tree still stands. In the end, old things are shed, so new things can develop. My wish for this autumn is to shed the old things that no longer serve me for a new birth to occur. I will emerge a better version than I was before and, with each season, I will hope. With every transition, I will reap, sow and grow. I am the tree and I will stand.
My friends, you are statuesque and courageous at heart. You, too, will stand.
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