>This autumn,I have been fascinated by falling leaves because I know that my life is at a point where I need to shed some things I have been holding close. Chronic illness will do that to a person.I have spent my life experimenting with who I want to become. Now I am in a season of letting go of some of that.

I thought that, once again, I could  learn from the trees, but I’ve been struggling.

Leaves (and fruits and wilted blossoms) don’t actually fall off trees; they are pushed.

Hormones, triggered by internal or external changes in the environment, cause the plant to create what are called “abscission cells.” A layer of waxy material forms nearest to the stem to protect it. On the leaf side, a bumpy line of cells forms to push the leaf, bit by bit, away from the rest of the plant.

{Pretty, hunh? It makes me want to paint. If I do, I’ll post it.}

Flashback: I am 16 years old, sitting on a plane next to my mother, who is reading a book by Lafcadio Hearn. We are returning to the States after 10 months living in Jamaica. It has been an awful/wonderful/transformative year for me. I read this:

“When you pick a branch, the tree springs back into place. The same is not true of the heart’s affections.”

(I have been unable to Google the quote… Is the memory fiction?)

Part of me wants to emulate trees and falling leaves:  How do I protect my core while I gradually push away what needs to drop?

Part of me insists on my humanity: change may hurt. To be fully human, I want to feel the hurt and loss and grief and incorporate it into my forward movement.

Let me get less esoteric. For many years, I have been driving half an hour to attend a church. Over the last year, my arms have been getting weaker and driving has been getting more dangerous. Getting rides is possible, but inconvenient and time-and-energy-consuming. During the last month, I’ve been making connections at a church 5 minutes drive from where I live. (On a nice summer day, I might even get there in my wheelchair.) It makes sense to change churches.

When I imagine staying at the “old” church, I feel tired and heavy. When I imagine switching to the “new” church, I feel relieved and free, but my heart hurts.

When we moved from California to Minnesota, my then seven-year-old daughter, Alexis, said, “we will never have all of the people we love in the same place at the same time.”

She was right, of course. Moving on is a condition of creatures, not of trees. We leave things behind. If we are conscious, it hurts.

Alexis was right: we never have all of the people we love in the same place at the same time. But we learn, as we age, to carry the love with us and within us.