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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Nature Helps

Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life. Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” -Rachel Carson

Dear Reader,

This last weekend was Grand Marais’s Wintering Festival, a time where the community gathers together to celebrate the longest season of the year. For those who, like me, have had lifelong overdoses of winter grumbling, seeing the people come together in excitement to celebrate the love of this snowy season was so refreshing. With impeccable timing the first winter storm of the year decided to arrive last weekend too, bringing a fresh new covering to the woods and hills. Walking at twilight through the silent forest paths and observing the snow’s ethereal glow in the dusky light brings a peace and wonder to eradicate all traces of the day’s troubles. Winter is a magical season in the northland.

The Rachel Carson quote I shared was one I heard on Saturday at a presentation by Dave and Amy Freeman, a couple who spent an entire year exploring the Boundary Waters to appreciate the wilderness and raise awareness about proposed sulfide-ore copper mines near the Boundary Waters, which would contaminate its lakes and rivers. Their stories and photos were remarkable, but what stood out most to me was the peace and reverence with which they spoke about their experiences. A short walk in the woods or a quarter hour spent on Superior’s shores brings such refreshment—how much would a year in the wilderness change the way one views and responds to things, the pace of life, or the focus on what’s important.

Though I don’t have a whole year to spend in the wilderness, I’m trying to gather little bits of nature’s healing during this month: a glimpse of sea, a flash of stars, a short jaunt among the trees. During this time of transitioning, getting our bearings, and planning our next steps, being surrounded by such beauty and silence as there is here has been most enriching and vitalizing. Even though life feels stuck in almosts right now—almost settled, almost home, almost at peace, almost happy—there is comfort in knowing that just as night will give way to morning, so this time of almosts will give way to a time of fullness. And just as the hills and lake and rocks stand strong and constant, so can a constant trust and serenity be found even when everything else seems to be changing.

If you want to find out more about the Freemans and their mission or learn about America’s most visited wilderness, I’d recommend checking out this link:

https://www.savetheboundarywaters.org/

All the best,

Rae