Gray-blue is the color of the distant mountain, almost obscured by the light sage green scrub oaks at the edge of our country property on the outskirts of the Texas capital.
Baby raindrops lightly kiss the shiny tin roof above my head, making an ever-so-slight random pattern of sound, breaking the silence of this moist gray cloud-covered morning.
Packets of moisture shine on the dark green leaves of ivy that crawl like erratic, busy little ants in all directions on the rails of the deck.
Hints of red infiltrate the otherwise green leaves like old age creeps into our bodies, indicating fall is here, followed by the end of the season and the beginning of winter and a new year.
In Celebration of Fall
Fall is my most celebrated season, the biggest Thanksgiving feast for the eyes. It’s when our color shines the most, when we’ve graduated to a time when our wisdom is strong though our leaves may one day fall.
The contrast of seasons is demonstrated in my own household, where the spring greens of youth dominate our home as three 16-year-olds awkwardly seek independence and want adulthood too soon, just as my generation wish they could keep their vast wisdom but take on the bright greens of spring once again.
Wanting to Be Older
The hairs barely visible on my chin and the hint of a mustache never got shaved when I was a youth wanting to look older, and now, in the fall season, my sags and wrinkles make me want to look younger. When we’re young, we want to let go of youth, and when we age, we want to return to it.
The Life of Trees
I can’t imagine the fall leaves, in their stunning beauty, looking back at spring and wishing they were green. Instead they shine brilliantly in celebration, and we humans drive long distances to marvel at their color. They don’t stop shining because of the fear that they will one day become brown and crisp, and will soon leave their branches to dissolve into the ground and enrich the soil. Instead they embrace their role, their season, their purpose, as part of a cycle that endlessly repeats.
Be the Tree
Focus not on the season or the season to follow. In youth, spend not your time wishing you were older. In old age, focus not on wishing you were young. Just be the tree … the seedling absorbing the nourishment of light and water and growing out of the soil, or the thin growing sapling, feeling tall and on your way to being a master, or the giant mighty oak crowning the top of a hill, confidently spreading twisted and gnarled branches that reach out like vast open arms to embrace the sun, providing a safe place for birds to nest, a place where young energetic squirrels playfully jump across the wide and secure branches. Acorns fall from your tree and soon peek out of the soil below, and the seed creates a forest.
Live the Questions
“Have patience with everything that is unsolved in your heart and try to cherish the questions themselves, like closed rooms and like books written in a very strange tongue. Do not search now for the answers which cannot be given you because you could not live them. It is a matter of living everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, one distant day live right into the answer.” — Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
The Natural Flow
Joy is found in the discoveries and in the pursuit. The flow of water is too rapid and vast to overcome; let it flow over you like a rock in a raging river. Embrace each time, each season, each moment, whether you’re young wishing to be older, or old and wishing you were not suffering the aches of age.
The Purpose of Seasons
You were planted by elders before you. Your season — your tiny sprout peeking through the soil — was nourished by the fallen leaves before you, feeding your growth, your shiny green buds of spring leaves, your dark end-of-summer leaves, your coming fall leaves, your brilliant reds and yellows, your delicate brown, crunchy leaves, and even your escape from the tree as you float to the ground and into the soil. It is a season with a purpose.
You’ve been given the gift of life. Embrace it as it is.
Feel the Breeze
Your circumstances have been created for you for a reason. Change what needs to be changed, embrace what cannot be changed, but feel the breeze on your skin in every adventure, every moment. Like it or not, you’ve been given a purpose, and the questions you live will provide a clear direction.
Live it fully, embrace what is. Don’t ask why. The answer is in the season. Instead ask for guidance so you can make the best of the season you’ve been given.
PS: We all provide gifts to one another, and sometimes we don’t know the great value of the gifts we’ve been given. Gifts of difficult trials, gifts of opportunity, gifts that don’t seem like gifts at the time. Recently when I was talking artist Joe Paquet into presenting at the coming Plein Air Convention this April in San Francisco, he gave me the gift of the Rilke book, which is a bouquet of words every artist should read. Only a few pages in, its impact is mind-boggling. Thank you, Joe.
This week I’m so excited I could jump up and down with glee as I check the box for another bucket list painting spot. On Friday we begin Fall Color Week in the Canadian Rockies, where we’ll paint the rich color of aging aspens, and the snow-capped mountain peaks in front of lakes filled with turquoise blue-green glacial waters. I feel blessed to be able to go for a week, and to welcome the new friends I’ll make and amazing artists I’ll discover. These events are a gift to me. A week of painting not only makes me a better painter because I’m painting two or three canvases a day, it enriches my soul to be in the beauty of God’s great creation, and it reduces my stress to lose myself in piles of paint. Though doing something for oneself seems selfish, I’m more convinced than ever that it’s not selfish at all because it enhances our mental health, improves our outlook, and makes us happier and able to be better at our other responsibilities. Still, my absence from the family is hard for me and for them. I want to thank my wife for her patience and understanding, encouragement, and the increased work she takes on. She is a true blessing to me and our family.