Here in North Carolina, we are nearing the end of the yearly changing of the leaves. In my opinion, North Carolina is one of the best places to watch this amazing phenomenon take place. Every year, the sea of lush, green leaves transform into hues of yellow, orange and fiery red. And every year, I am amazed at this process and it continues to serve as a reminder of mother natures strength, beauty, and connectedness.
To fully understand the meaning of this process we must first understand why it physically takes place. Leaves are colored by molecules called pigments. The pigment that causes leaves to be green is called chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is important for plants to make food using sunlight. During spring and summer when there is plenty of sunlight, and plants are in their prime growing season, plants make a lot of chlorophyll. In autumn when it starts to get cold, some plants stop making chlorophyll because it requires too much energy. Instead, those plants break down chlorophyll into smaller molecules. As chlorophyll goes away, other pigments start to show their colors. This is why leaves turn yellow or red in fall.
Now we understand and fully appreciate all of the hard work that mother nature does in order to gift us with this beautiful piece of art, on the canvas of our earth, we can to attempt to search for the underlying lessons she is attempting to teach us. What can we learn about our world, ourselves, and our souls from the autumn’s changing leaves?
The Cycle of Life
Life is a continuous, neverending series of cycles taking place over and over again. If you open your eyes to your surroundings and even within yourself, you can start to notice the patterns and cycles taking place all around you, every single day. When you start to develop this sense of awareness, you notice these cycles, you will also notice that the natural human anxiety and need to control surroundings, is powerless against the cycle of life. Your mind and soul can begin to relax and let some of your daily anxieties melt away, allowing yourself to flow with these cycles of life, and become more in tune with them. An example of this is a to-do list. Most of us feel as though our to-do list in neverending, and that is because this is true. Instead of feeling overwhelmed and stressed because your list never comes to end, try your best to relax into this process and be aware enough to understand that as soon as one task is completed, another will come up. This concept is applicable to all aspects of life. Just as the leaves go through the same cycle every year of growth and rest, we do the same in our lives, and like the trees, we must learn to embrace and understand this process. And when we do, just as the trees, will we grow and thrive.
Death is never final, whatever dies is reborn.
As the leaves start to change colors, we associate this time with winter and death. Even though the trees are not dead in the winter, they are simply in a dormant state. Energy within our universe cannot be created or destroyed. Our universe is the greatest recycler, no source of energy is ever wasted, it continues to live, in endless forms. An example of this is when an animal dies. Say a squirrel dies in the woods. As soon as its body dies, chemicals inside its stomach begin the decomposition process. Its body that at one time climbed trees, scavenged for nuts, and raised babies, is now being broken down. Now, although this may seem sad and unfair, we have to be patient and allow mother nature time to begin the process of regrowth. Months after the squirrel passes away, its body’s nutrients sink deep down into the soil of the forest, where an oak tree seed is waiting to germinate. This burst of nutrients is exactly what the tree needs to begin to grow. Years later, a tall, strong oak tree stands on the grave of the squirrel. It provides food, shelter, and resources for many creatures in the forest. Another squirrel has even found a home here and raises her babies here. The tree is now a tool that allows new life to flourish and thrive. One death has created an abundance of new energy and resources. The same applies to all life and energy in our universe. Death is not a destination, it is not final. There is no beginning and end of life, it is infinite. Energy only changes forms and serves different purposes, it never dies.
You do not see the trees worrying when it is time to change their leaves and go to sleep for the winter. They embrace the occasion, and mother nature allows them to put on a grand show of color and beauty. The trees thrive in the state of change, just as all nature does. The entire nature of our world and our universe is to change, it is one of the fundamental building blocks of all we know as life. There would be no life without change. There is no present moment, time and change walk together hand in hand. Without change, there would be no life, no death, and no meaning. The human mind is conditioned on a chemical level to cling to stability. When we find food, shelter, or any means of comfort our brain makes a mental note. The mind then forms pathways within itself that are hardwired to repeat, and every time these pathways are used they become stronger and take more of a hold on our consciousness and our lives. If we can learn to acknowledge that change is inevitable and embrace it fully, we can invite all of the opportunity, knowledge, and love it can bring into our lives. We too can evolve and grow, just like the trees, the way nature and our universe intended.
We all need a break every once in awhile.
The leaves begin to change colors as the chlorophyll production starts slowing down and the tree enters its dormant state. I believe that this concept is so simple and beautiful. Mother nature has given the tools to all of the trees, for them to know when it is time to take a break, to rest and prepare for another growing season in the spring. The trees do not say to mother nature; “you don’t understand, I have a deadline!” or “If I grow during the winter I can be taller than the tree next to me!” Trees do not argue with their own nature, they fully trust in it. After their season of rest, the trees go into the spring with vast amounts of energy, and thrive and grow again. We also need to be in tune with ourselves enough to know when we need to take a break and re-energize. Resting does not mean laziness or incapability. Rest is a mutual respect and compromise between your mind, body, and soul.
Time keeps moving.
The autumn leaves and the continuous cycling of the seasons is a great reminder to us that time is consistently moving forward. No matter how much regret we have over something we may have said or done in the past, it can never be undone, time continues to move forward and we as humans have to continue to flow alongside it. The trees do not say “wait no I like spring better I don’t want to start summer!” All of the elements of nature around us move freely and continuously with the flow of time, they do not resist time or live in the past. We must learn to do the same, we must live within each moment, while still understanding that time continues to flow through us and with us.
All of nature functions in a balanced state. Spring, summer, fall, and winter are all the exact same amount of days, and interestingly on the day of the fall equinox, day and night are the exact same length. People have a tendency to become very unbalanced. An example of this is someone who works 12 hours a day Monday-Friday, and then when the weekend comes around they sleep all weekend, due to the fact that their body and mind are exhausted. This lifestyle, although sometimes necessary is not balanced in any way. Even trees in the forest share nutrients with each other through their roots underground. They do not allow one tree to grow strong and tall and the others to starve and die. All nature functions in harmony and balance and I believe we should try to do the same.
Nature is the most prevalent and powerful force on our planet.
The breathtaking and amazing phenomenon of the autumn leaves changing every year is only one of the billions of ways that mother nature effects our planet every day. Obviously, without all of the beautiful abundance of resources that mother nature has gifted us, we would not be here. But, the, even more, intruiging thing about it all is the way mother nature presents it to us as if it were a show or a movie. Everything is timed perfectly, the conditions all just right. From the lush green rainforests to the windy deserts, to the seashore. We once began as a single cell that was given a perfect set of circumstances to thrive and diversify infinitely. Mother nature is the most divinely diverse force on our planet and yet she is constantly taken for granted. Mother natures symphony is always performed in perfect harmony. Without nature, there would be nothing. No life, No us. We must learn to appreciate every blessing we have here on earth and utilize them in ways that benefit us while still maintaining a deep respect and appreciation for our surroundings.
I hope you learned something about trees and mother nature today. Even more importantly, I hope you learned something new about yourself today that you can use to help you in this upcoming autumn season and further into your spiritual journey.