On Autumn and the End of the Things — Some Thoughts by Parker Palmer

I’ve been thinking about this short section from Parker Palmer’s On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity and Getting Old for the past several days. There are, I think, deep mysteries and secrets in death and dying and the end of things but it’s hard to think about them because it’s scary. Death and dying and the end of things is scary.

I’ve been tying to step into some of those scary places during my walks this week, to think as I crunch my way through the orange and red and gold-brown leaves, about the beauty in death and what that might mean for us humans. Is there a lesson to be learned from all the brilliant colors at my feet and before my eyes? Probably.

Here are Parker’s words. Maybe I just like that he calls himself a professional melancholic? I’ve been told that I have a “real flare for the melancholy.” So, you know, same same. Anyhow, would love to hear your thoughts.

I’m a professional melancholic, and for years my delight in the autumn color show quickly morphed into sadness as I watched the beauty die. Focused on the browning of summer’s green growth, I allowed the prospect of death to eclipse all that’s life-giving about the fall and its sensuous delights.

Then I began to understand a simple fact: all the “falling” that’s going on out there is full of promise. Seeds are being planted and leaves are being composted as earth prepares for yet another uprising of green.

Today, as I weather the late autumn of my own life, I find nature a trustworthy guide. It’s easy to fixate on everything that goes to the ground as time goes by: the disintegration of a relationship, the disappearance of good work well done, the diminishment of a sense of purpose and meaning. But as I’ve come to understand that life “composts” and “seeds” us as autumn does the earth, I’ve seen how possibility gets planted in us even in the hardest of times.

Looking back, I see how the job I lost pushed me to find work that was mine to do, how the “Road Closed” sign turned me toward terrain that I’m glad I traveled, how losses that felt irredeemable forced me to find new sources of meaning. In each of these experiences, it felt as though something was dying, and so it was. Yet deep down, amid all the falling, the seeds of new life were always being silently and lavishly sown. . . .

…When I give myself over to organic reality—to the endless interplay of darkness and light, falling and rising—the life I am given is as real and colorful, fruitful and whole as this graced and graceful world and the seasonal cycles that make it so. Though I still grieve as beauty goes to ground, autumn reminds me to celebrate the primal power that is forever making all things new in me, in us, and in the natural world.

Parker Palmer

Image credit: Isaiah!

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