During a few blustery, rainy days here in New England, I watched the autumn leaves fall like snow. (Reminding us of what’s to come!) My imagination conjured the sad image of these trees desperately clinging to their many-colored coats as they struggled to hold on against the unrelenting wind. A few days later, after reading a scientific article, I was surprised to learn what’s really going on.
In autumn, trees “decide” to let go of their leaves.
In the warm and fruitful days of spring and summer, leaves use sunlight and water to make food for the tree. With the coming of winter, these leaves become inefficient and unable to produce food. In order to survive the harsh winter and allow for new growth in the spring, a decidous tree must shed its leaves and seal off the spots where they were growing.
This is done through a process called abscission. When the Northern days grow shorter and colder, trees release a hormone that causes tiny cells to grow at the spot where the leaf stem meets the branch. These are called “abscission” cells. (Think “scissors.”) These cells form a line that weakens the leaf stem and allows the wind to do the rest.
A very different metaphor then what I originally imagined. A story of struggle and loss gives way to one of empowerment and growth. Instead of holding on in vain, the trees are actively participating in a process of letting go. What a powerful example of how we might choose to live! Think of the autumn leaves as habits, behaviors, or ways of thinking that are not life-giving or sustaining. By letting go of them, we—like the trees—allow for protection, preparation, and new growth.
And so I ask…is there something you need to let go of? Continue reading