Autumn: On colors and casting off

Cast off everything that is not yourself.” –Persius

Welcome to October, dear readers. Welcome to brisk mornings and cozy evenings, exhilarating walks and wooly socks. In other words, the best time of the year.

Day by day, the tip of the arrowhead feels more like home. It’s been almost a year since we landed in Cook County, and it’s taken about that long for this to feel like “our place.” But eleven months in, the sense of belonging has begun to grow. We’re making connections and trying new things. Whether that be a construction class or ballet, making tacos or throwing clay, each experience is putting down a little baby root. I’m thankful for this place: for the people, the activities, the quiet, the beauty. Especially here in the autumn, there’s nowhere else in the world I’d rather be.

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Already the maples are dropping their cloaks of scarlet while the aspens shine in their most brilliant of golds. The glaze of frost, clouds of breath, and sting of early morning cold all made their debuts in this first week of October. Even the lake has begun to look different, with the playful, splashing blues of summer giving way to the steely, churning waters of the approaching storm season. The harbor empties of sails as the nighttime temperatures drop. Autumn is here.

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Something about the transition to autumn wakes up the soul. The dreamy, hazy gauze of summer gives way to a clarity like the October sky. School resumes, routines get established, new journeys begin. Lighthearted play gives way to a more serious forward-thinking. Personally, I’ve always thought we should rewrite the calendars so our new year starts in September…it just makes a certain intuitive sense to me.

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I remember learning that—for the most part—leaves don’t change color in the sense that the yellows and oranges are conjured up anew. They’ve always been present since the leaf’s beginning in the spring, but for the most part are masked by the green of chlorophyll. It’s only when trees stop producing chlorophyll in preparation for winter that their actual colors show through, so to speak.

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Why do we find fall colors attractive? Not because yellow or orange are inherently superior to green—that would be silly. We find them so beautiful because of their variety. Their uniqueness. The way each tree wears its own trademark hue, and each leaf bears a unique pattern of color. People don’t flock to the Northland in July to take pictures of leaves, because at that point they’re all the same. It’s only when a tree’s true colors emerge that we pull out the cameras or simply stop in admiration.

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The emerging isn’t free. It comes with a cost, a sacrifice, the willingness to die. But that’s life for all of us. The discovery of our deepest layers involves the shedding of the masks we created when we were afraid of what was underneath. We no longer need them, but that doesn’t mean they’re painless to cast away. The first gasp of raw air may sting, but it’s a moment as fleeting as a gust of wind.

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As we walk deeper into this autumn, my own season of casting off continues. When I said no more to Good Christian Woman chlorophyll running through my veins, the transition was certainly not seamless. But now, the acute pains over the deconstruction of my religion have subsided. I’m on the other side of anger. I still have questions, sure, things I disagree with, and moments of annoyance, even, but I don’t see myself as a rebel or escapee or post-evangelical or what have you. I don’t view myself in comparison to that culture anymore—time and distance have made it distant. I’m just here, being me, and for now that is enough.

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I want to end with this quote from Marianne Williamson:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.

We can be afraid of our colors underneath—afraid of the attention they might draw, the discussions they might spark, the changes they might make. But they intimidate us because deep down we know they mean something. You mean something. I mean something.

Live in that truth.

Lots of love and pumpkin spice,

Rae

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5 thoughts on “Autumn: On colors and casting off

  1. Oh dear Rae: Of course I read your post as soon as it popped up on my monitor, but I couldn’t answer right away. Oh a couple of little things I sputtered at right away like doesn’t she remember that the Calendar, the old one, the Church one, actually does start in September? Then I stubbed the toe of my mind tying to grasp what you meant by the “deconstruction of your religion”. I have my own flowing definition of religion, which I wrestled through to academically and spiritually over a long period of time, and it isn’t something that one can take down like a building of Lego blocks, but let that be for next time. I got a kick out of trying to picture you as a “Good Christian Woman”. I’m afraid (I confess) that my stereotype of a GCW is too warped to ever fit you wondering along the bluffs of Ireland into it. Your life is a rich pilgrimage. Thank you for sharing it with us.

    • You’re welcome. The church calendar was in the back of my mind as I wrote that, I just think the secular should follow suit. And if you can’t picture me as a GCW then I take that as a huge compliment! 🙂

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