The last clusters of brown leaves cling tentatively to stark branches. The weight of a cold rain drives them down one by one, to join a mounting carpet of brown that covers everything.
Fall has always been my favorite season. But it has been years since I sat at a kitchen table and watched this transformation so intimately--when death claims colors' radiance and strips nature to the bare essentials. The trees, with trunks all sleek and black and mossy from days of rain, get starker every day.
There is a severe drama to this dance of death, when color is drained, and life lets go and spirals down to sodden ground. The snow hasn't yet blanketed the landscape with new possibilities, and spring's vital and verdant hues are months away.
I sit by a kitchen window in the mountains of western North Carolina. The leaves slowly spiraling outside seem like so many illusions and securities now gone.
The past year has been one of unearthing memories, counting life's wounds, groping my way through a long tunnel of pain that seemed at points unending. It was a time of facing fear on the streets that have been my home for 15 years; of finding that loneliness had crept into intimate spaces and sadness had overwhelmed my capacity for celebration.
We are coached in this culture to avoid pain. I looked in vain for tidy little spaces to put mine, out of sight and heart. But, as a friend reminded me in the thick of it, "The only way to the other side is through the pain."
She was right, of course. There are no shortcuts. Healing always comes at great price.