Autumn asks

These Blue Ridge Parkway trees are still beautiful even after losing their leaves in November 2011.

These Blue Ridge Parkway trees are beautiful even after losing their leaves. November 2011

“Autumn asks that we prepare for the future —that we be wise in the ways of garnering and keeping. But it also asks that we learn to let go—to acknowledge the beauty of sparseness.”Bonaro W. Overstreet

Maybe autumn has such widespread appeal because it embodies the continual dilemma facing all of us, almost on a daily basis: when to start, when to finish; when to continue, when to quit; when to keep and when to throw away.  At least as far back as Ecclesiastes, people were acknowledging that the wisdom of letting go is every bit as vital as the wisdom of holding on.  The trick is knowing when to do what.

Although New Year’s Day is a popular time to take stock of our lives, and springtime is traditionally associated with “spring cleaning,” we might find that the fall is a perfect time to clear away the clutter — mentally and physically — in preparation for the festive season to come.  As we enjoy the dazzling beauty of the leaves, and then sweep them up or mulch them into compost, let’s observe the uniquely calming beauty of the sparse landscape, and ask ourselves how best to prepare for the future.  Chances are, it will involve some storing away for the winter, just as the squirrels are stockpiling acorns.  But for many of us (and I would suspect most of us) it may involve letting go of even more than we keep.

OK, so I’m the world’s worst at letting go.  But I’m working on it. Today, please join me in appreciating the increasingly rare beauty of sparseness. It’s the perfect season to do it!

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.


  1. Thank you for this wonderful perspectives, Julia!
    I let the autumn colors pass me by and things got stark here in a hurry.
    Sometimes it just takes fresh eyes, or eyes with fresh perspective to see the different beauty that is here before us.
    Love to you and Matt!

  2. mike c

    I am not sure i could identify one, but have heard the Sassafras trees this time of year are gorgeous. A bright red.?I saw two beautiful bright yellow Ginkos yesterday. I hope to make it out to Gibbs garden one more time before New Years.

    • Mike, I wouldn’t know a Sassafras if I saw one, but there surely are some vivid red trees around here. There seem to be brighter reds in NoVa than in York; I’m not sure why. I do hope you get to Gibbs before it turns too cold. We had lovely warm weather this past week, although punctuated with TONS of rain!

  3. mike c.

    Also the Staghorn Sumac are beautiful and we have these at home in Wash. State. Interesting time to be voting here in GA. Now a battleground state. I was able to register here when i got my GA driver’s license two years ago. Interesting times.

    • Yes, Georgia is where all eyes are turning now. But those of us who grew up there, and love it still, have always known that “the empire state of the South” has long been a major player in more ways than one. After all, this is the state that gave us Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Jimmy Carter, Tyler Perry, Gone with the Wind, Coca-Cola, Chick Fil-A, Waffle House, the worst-to-first 1991 Atlanta Braves, and the world’s busiest airport, just to name a few claims to fame. Let’s hope that, no matter the outcome, Atlanta will still remain “the city too busy to hate.” As the song says, Georgia will always be on my mind.

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