Thursday, September 24, 2015

Fall: It's Not Just About Pumpkin-Spice Lattes

I will be the first to admit - I love fall and all the cozy decorations, sweaters, and pumpkins that typically get tagged along with it.  As soon as this season arrives, pumpkin-flavored everything and autumn-leaf decor hit the shelves, and for whatever reason, people go crazy about collecting it all.  Sure, the season offers refreshing, crisp scents and beautiful color schemes, but fall is more than just about pumpkin-spice lattes.  If we take a moment to delve into the core of this transitional season, we can learn a few lessons that can be applied to our own lives.

Here are five features of fall and the lessons they can teach us:

1. Leaves Changing Color - Change is Inevitable, Embrace It
Leaves changing from greens to burgundies and yellows is probably one of the most noticeable, beautiful events of fall.  Trees know that the colder winter months are shortly arriving.  They don't try to fend off something that they absolutely cannot control.  Instead, they shut down their chlorophyll-making process, fitting themselves in with the change.  In return, the other pigments in the leaves show through.  

As we go through life, we will make many changes physically, mentally, and spiritually.  All the different experiences and lessons that we encounter will cause us to change at some point.  Sometimes, this change drifts us apart from others.  Other times, change opens our doors to bigger opportunities.  No matter the result, we need to be open to the fact that our lives are constantly changing. 

Fearing this change and trying to reject it is almost like trying to force your body to fly; sure, there are certain machines that we can use to send ourselves up in the air, but flying, itself, is unnatural for our human bodies.  Manipulating outside factors to try and block change will only work for a short while, and it may even result in different kinds of changes.  Change is inevitable; it will happen multiple times.  Rather than wasting time and energy trying to figure out how to stop it, embrace the change.  Make the transition easier on yourself by allowing yourself to naturally transform with the process.  Like the changing leaves of fall, find a way to make the change work.  You will reach your destination faster in the long run, and you may be just as beautiful, if not more, in the end.

2. Funky Gourds - Being Different is More Interesting
You are at a farm fall festival, trying to pick out a few pumpkins and gourds from a massive pile to use as decoration at home.  There are hundreds of fall squash to choose from, so how do you know which one to pick?  Then, sticking out among all the perfectly plump orange pumpkins, is a funky shaped gourd with twists and juts.  It definitely has character and makes you smile, so you happily snatch it up, excited to display something so interesting and unique. 

With so many people in this world, it can be hard to completely separate ourselves from the rest.  Many people even tend to shape themselves to resemble their neighbor, attempting to match every skill and every quality just so that they can compare.  The problem is, when every single person looks the exact same, it can be rather difficult to find a person fit for a job, a project, a team, or a relationship.  It is overwhelming to look at hundreds of people and just choose one when everyone basically has the same qualities. 

Like the funky shaped gourd, being unique and having quirks will make you stand out.  Of course, there are those that will think you a little awkward, but others will be attracted to your interesting qualities.  Rather than trying to hide your true self, don't be afraid to be a little different.  Your uniqueness may just be what helps you get picked from the rest.

3. Squirrels Gathering Nuts - Prepare Yourself Just In Case
Photo Credit: Kathleen Christiansen
In preparation for the snow and lack of food to come in the winter months, squirrels are rapidly scurrying about, collecting as many nuts and seeds as they can in fall.  They're filling their bellies and gaining extra layers of plump so that they can keep themselves warm and full while bearing through the cold.  These squirrels are prepared for what lies ahead, or at least are better prepared than they would be if they just spent all of fall jumping in the leaves and sipping pumpkin-spice water.

Whether or not we know what lies ahead, there are always ways that we can better prepare ourselves.  When we are lucky to know what exactly the future holds, researching and implementing ways to deal with the circumstances is easier.  However, we can't completely tell the future and sometimes life will take us on a loop. In either case, it is always possible to think ahead and have some kind of back up, even if just for one possible outcome.

Squirrels can't tell whether the winter will have tons of seed-burying snow or not, but they fill themselves up in any case.  By having even one back up idea, you have a stronger, safer footing than if you trudged ahead blindly.  Before sporadically moving across country or buying a pet monkey, think about possible problems or situations that may occur; come up with ways to handle these situations.  You can't predict everything that will happen, but perhaps one of those back up ideas will come in handy.  Sure, you may just be filling yourself up with all these extra plans without ever having to use them, but at least you'll be satisfied from all the extra helpings.
4. Falling Pinecones - Falling Can Help You Grow
Conifer trees spend so much time and energy growing their pinecones.  In the fall, pinecones that have been maturing and growing tough for so long all of a sudden drop to the ground.  While the hard work and growth may cease, this fall isn't a failure.  With the help of little critters burying the pinecones about, each fallen pinecone has potential to become a brand new tree one day. 

Every person falls along their journey.  Although falls can hurt and damage us, they can actually move us to a better spot in our lives.  A fall can help open our eyes to better opportunities and ideas; they can strengthen our minds as well as our spirit.  Instead of concentrating on the pain caused by the fall, we should shift our focus to our new potential.  After you fall, reflect.  How did it happen?  What was too weak?  What can you do differently?  By reflecting on these questions, you'll be able to find weak spots that you otherwise may have never found.  Thus, you'll be able to eliminate them.  Along the way, don't be embarrassed to ask others for help getting back up.  They may just be what you need to bury the mistakes.

Even though we may have been strong before, this fall can help us improve into something even grander and better supported.  Falls are just a temporary setback.  Those that learn and grow from falls are the ones that actually take root. 

5. Hay and Dried Cornstalks - Yes, We Dry Up, but We're Still Beautiful
For some of us, fall can seem rather sad and dreary.  The plants and the flowers no longer bloom; the grasses and leaves turn crisp and brown.  It almost looks as if everything is getting old and withering away.  But these dried grasses and leaves are still used in decorations; their maturity is actually celebrated at the forefront of fall. 

Human life mimics the seasons.  There are periods where we are sprouting, times when we are in full bloom, and there are moments where we no longer stand as brilliantly.  Although we get older, grow weak, or shine a little less brightly than we once did, we are still just as beautiful.  We have just as much impact as we once did; we are just as important and loved. 

Sickness, disease, and time all have their unfortunate toll, but they don't change who we once were; who and what we are still stays the same.  While it may be frustrating to realize that we are no longer the best at our hobby or that we no longer can move with the same nimbleness as before, we shouldn't think ourselves no longer worthy.  Our past is not lost in the present; it still is a part of us.  As long as we live a life loving who we are each moment along the way, we will find ourselves still special as we age.  Just because you grow old or weak doesn't mean that you are no longer worthwhile.  You still have a purpose; you can still embellish a scene.   

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