As I sit on the floor typing today, outside the window directly in front of me is a large maple tree. The crisp, autumn temperatures have caused its leaves, once all green and full of life, to turn to a vibrant yellow. The leaves are wavering back and forth as the breeze blows through them, causing several of them to lose their grip on the branch they’ve called home for the last several months. They float to the ground, the deck, the car parked under the big, yellow expanse of branches–wherever the wind takes them will be their new home for a short while. Eventually, the yellow will fade as it is separated from the life that it once held onto. The ground is covered with leaves gone before today. They are no longer the summer color of green, nor are they the autumn colors of red, orange or yellow. Instead, the ground is a variety of brown hues. The once soft leaves now crunch under foot, the life completely gone from them.
I recently read a quote that said, “Autumn is proof that death can be beautiful.” I had never thought of the fact that the beauty of autumn exists because of death. A tree sheds its leaves to go dormant for the cold months that characterize our Minnesota winters. With branches bare, one may think the tree itself is dead, but this is not the case at all. Just the leaves died in order to allow the tree the energy it needs to rest through the winter months when sunlight is scarce. Inside the tree, there are still processes happening that will allow the tree to come to life again in the spring. Autumn has always ranked as a top season for me. I love to watch the leaves fall from the trees in a stiff breeze and then walk through them and hear the crunching under my feet.
This year, autumn has been a difficult season for me. In some ways I wonder if I am like the giant maple tree outside the window. I feel as though I am a picture of death. There has been little life in me for some time now. I get through each day, thankful when the respite of sleep sets in, only to have to wake up the next morning and hope to get through another day. I don’t know what I am supposed to be doing right now. My life seems to hold no purpose. Depression and pain scream at me everyday, telling me I am worthless. I hate myself. I hate what I’ve become. Yet, I feel powerless to change it.
Several months from now, new buds will appear on the empty branches of the giant maple tree. Those buds, with the right combination of sunshine and rain, will eventually open up to big, green leaves. The branches will once again be full and will once again give shade from the heat of the sun. The tree appears dead for a season. My depression hit in the spring. It continued through summer and now through fall. Will it ever release me from its grip? Will I eventually experience life once again? Or am I destined to forever be the winter version of the tree–alive somewhere inside but dead to those around me?