The Brilliance of Autumn Leaves

I am so struck by the beauty of the autumn leaves these days. I have always loved autumn, but now find, on this aging path, that I relate so much more poignantly to the intense last blush of autumn. The colors of the leaves are breathtaking. I almost cannot take in their incredible beauty and brilliance as it stirs something deep within me.

I am now an autumn leaf. I do not mean to say that my beauty is brilliant or breathtaking, but I can feel the depth of my colors and the brilliance of the evidence of the time that I have spent in this borrowed body on this earth. This body….a temporary host for the indefinable spirit, but a host that we pay such critical attention to.

We disparage the signs of aging….the wrinkles, the sagging, the extra pounds and flesh, the changes in our functioning, the undeniable aches and pains that now require that we keep these bodies moving in order to avoid the aches and pains or at least reduce them….the visible proof of time marching on.

We celebrate and worship youth in this culture. And that is not to say that youth is indeed not beautiful, because it very much is. The lovely skin, the tight bodies, the efficiently functioning and smoothly moving bodies – very beautiful to behold.

And yet, I now see, out of necessity perhaps since entering the land of aging, the beauty that often goes unseen and unappreciated and not celebrated …but rather hidden in cloaks of shame and disgust and avoidance. We become invisible, because to see us would be too painful a gaze into a mirror of things yet to come….

I can look now at an older face and see the life lived thus far in the depth of the eyes….the laughter enjoyed shown by the crinkles at the corner of the eyes, the depth of eye contact that speaks of life, love, pain and joy that has been lived, felt, witnessed…..the skin that has become thinner and more fragile as the spirit and wisdom deepen and grow….the desire and passion still there that so often goes unnoticed and is invalidated and even perhaps made light of and joked about but that burns more deeply than ever to those that will look and see….the life and light still burning brightly, perhaps because death begins to come into sight and becomes so much more of a reality and a call and a reminder of what will be…..The leaf that becomes the most brilliant just before it releases itself from the tree and drops back down to rejoin the earth.

I have never felt quite as alive as I do these days. I feel things more intensely, appreciate each moment and all that it brings, cry more easily, laugh more heartily, connect with more depth and love, explore solitude and my own depth more frequently, and breathe each breath of life more consciously and with more gratitude. We are that autumn leaf now in our older years, and we have brilliance and beauty that is beyond description to those that will look and see. We can give the gift of seeing and loving and appreciating this in others around us. And, most importantly, we can give ourselves the gift of truly seeing the beauty still deep within ourselves and the fragile leaf of our own bodies.

We are beautiful. Perhaps more than ever……like the autumn leaves….until we release and rejoin the earth. I see the beauty in you all. I see you.

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