I am in awe of deciduous trees in the winter. They courageously stand completely bare to the world during the harshest months of the year. A deciduous tree takes a whole season off for restoration. It lets go of everything it has worked so hard to produce, every single leaf. As the temperatures begin to drop, the tree shuts down food production. The lack of chlorophyll causes leaves to change color and eventually drop. When trees drop their leaves, they go into a type of dormancy, a time to rest and prepare for the next season. To me, this is a remarkable example of self-care.
I have come to appreciate that this letting go process actually allows the tree to rejuvenate itself and to feed and protect the plants around it. The leaves from my Japanese Maple fall off gracefully, creating the perfect mulch to protect its roots and the plants around it during the coldest months of winter, while recharging the soil with nutrients so it can produce new leaves in the spring. Having the courage to let go and pare down actually helps the tree and its neighboring plants prepare for the glory days of spring. What a bold way to face a new season, stripped down and humbly letting go of everything, completely trusting in the cycles of nature.
In my own life, I often discover the very “leaf” that seems most precious and critical to my survival is the very one I must let fall to the ground. So many times, I cling to a task or a role that seems so important, only to discover that letting it go is the key to a stage of fulfilling new growth. Imagine what potential we might all have for growth if once a year, we set everything down, all of the lists and projects and responsibilities that seem to give our hours and days meaning. If we stood there, barren to the world without anything governing our time, how would we see the world differently? Which tasks would we choose to pick up again intentionally and which ones might we decide to leave behind? How long could we have the courage to stand there without these lists and titles that give us the illusion of self-importance?
In the words of Deepak Chopra, “ In the process of letting go, you will lose many things from the past, but you will find yourself.” What is so remarkable to me now is that I see just how beautiful the frame of a tree is, even without the embellishment of lush green foliage or beautiful fall colors. The simple elegant branches, stretched out like the limbs of a dancer, are lovely all on their own.
Julie Haydon is an artist and musician living the beautiful hills of Oakland, CA who creates works of beauty that brings people together. When she is not at work in the studio or making music, she is outside playing in the dirt or hiking with her husband and their two spoiled dogs.