Celebrating the Sacrament of Letting Go
Under the canopy of the trees to the right of the swimming pool, the ground is soft and yielding; layer upon layer of autumn leaves, feathers, twigs, bark, all left undisturbed where they fell. My feet hardly make a sound as I walk through this carpeted glade, and more leaves loosen above me and fall to add another year’s layer and I ponder how it would be to dig down into this rich hummus from which fungi is now emerging and new shoots are being nourished.
Over the last few months, I have been listening to friends, family members and guests at the Bield speak about their retirement from their daily work. Some have been nervous in anticipation of the event; others are looking forward with eagerness to a new, freer routine whilst others are pondering how their new life looks several months or a year after retirement. But for all, there is an acknowledgement of having to let go - of the person they used to be when they had a job title, their successes and failures, their dreams and aspirations for their career. I have witnessed the pain evoked by that letting go; the confusion as to what their new identity is or will become. Sometimes, there is relief at giving up what has become burdensome, other times, there is regret over unrealised dreams or failures and difficulties they've encountered in their work. But walking in the forest, looking at the ground littered with this year's growth, I’m struck with the sense of how nature accepts everything and can work with everything to create something new. Here there are no neat piles, nothing is discarded as unworthy or a failure. The fallen tree or a ‘snag’ rots down and becomes a rich source of nourishment for the other plants around it . This autumn’s leaf fall will become a rich soil conditioner. Discarded feathers might be used next year for a bird's nest. There is a deep sense of acceptance and peacefulness in the scene and the verse from Isaiah 26:3 came to mind
‘You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you’.
But it all starts with the letting go and as I walked further on, I chanced upon this poem by Macrina Wiederkehr, hanging from one of the trees
The Sacrament of letting go
She celebrated the sacrament
Of Letting Go
First she surrendered her Green
Then the Orange, yellow and Red
Finally she let go of her Brown….
Shedding her last leaf
She stood empty and silent , stripped bare
Leaning against the sky , she began her vigil of trust
Shedding her last leaf
She watched its journey down to the ground…
She stood in silence
Wearing the colour of emptiness
Her branches wondering
How do you give shade, with so much gone?
And then the sacrament of waiting began
The sunrise and the sunset watched with
Tenderness, clothing her with silhouettes
They kept her hope alive.
They helped her understand that
Her dependence and need
Her readiness to receive
Were giving her a new kind of beauty.
Every morning and every evening she stood
In silence and celebrated
The sacrament of waiting
May we all be encouraged this October to celebrate our own sacrament of waiting and letting go as we watch the autumn leaves turn and fall.