Our life-guides come from expected and unexpected places. When we are going through times of grieving, guides can help us find our way. As you are moving through these tender days this may be a good time to think about who your guides and companions have been all along. Who are those who check-in with you, who watch out for you, who abide with you? Who are those that remind you that life won’t always be like this? Who remind you that change comes, ready or not sometimes, change comes? Sometimes it’s good to be reminded of the folks who continue with us, especially in the midst of our deepest times of grief.
For this day, I am mindful of ways that nature's four seasons can be helpful guides. As we are moving soon into winter, the changes of the coming season are slowly making themselves known. The air feels different, crisper. The blowing of the wind is colder, stronger. The leaves that not that long ago were beautiful shades of yellow and red and orange, are now letting go and falling to the ground. Most days it's impossible to walk very far outside without hearing the crunching of those fallen leaves underfoot. Each day, each week shifts come. Colors and textures merge and are subtly altered. The season is shifting and turning into something different, something new. Inviting us along. Guiding and showing us the way.
By paying attention and journeying with them, nature’s companions can invite us to be aware of changes within ourselves as well. Shifts and transformations, holding on and letting go. What is changing in the outside world, is changing also in us. In the tiniest ways, we can also observe changes happening within ourselves. We are alive. We are here, journeying to Bethlehem. Perhaps as we look back over our shoulders, we’ll see that already there have been shifts along this December journey. Perhaps we have put down some of the baggage that was only proving to be cumbersome. Perhaps there have been small changes in the words we are using to talk about ourselves and how we are feeling. Perhaps we are breathing differently, perhaps we are aware that a little bit of what was is no longer here with us.
Winter is my favorite season for tree-sightings and observing. Here in the winter you can see each tree for who she really is. Without the leaves, the branches can be seen more fully -- reaching out, reaching up. Limb by limb, tree by tree, day by day, change by change.
I’ve always wanted to pay attention to one tree for a year. I’ve never done it, only thought about it. Maybe this is the year. Maybe now is the time to begin companioning a tree through a year of seasons and changes. Paying attention to what happens. Observing what happens to and with it, what happens around it.
So as part of this Advent journey this year, I will find a tree, and begin. I will try to pay attention through these coming-on winter days. I’ll watch what happens with this tree as she moves from this tender December time on into January to February and on through the year. Maybe in my paying better attention and by being mindful of witnessing change, I will be better able to pay attention and see some of the life-changes that are also taking place in myself.
Our whole lives the seasons have been teaching us about ways of living in and through our grief. In the winter we see the particularity and vulnerability of each tree, if we are really looking. When spring comes, we begin to watch the buds on the branches take on shape and color. Summer brings us shade trees, full and mighty. And circling round to fall when the leaves change color and begin to let go. Leaves falling only to return again – differently in the coming season. Holding on and letting go. Leaf by leaf. Branch by branch, down to the roots. When our hearts are open to see, our guides are all around us.