Yesterday was a beautiful fall day, and I spent part of the afternoon at the Forum in Harrisburg, listening to the Harrisburg Symphony perform a wonderful program of piano and organ music. (Another orchestra theme!) I was drawn into the concert by the promise of hearing the Saint-Saens Organ Symphony, a favorite of mine and one I'd caught last year while visiting in Florida. It was a true delight to hear again.

But what got me thinking during the performance was a different piece, this a Piano Concerto by Keith Emerson, of Emerson, Lake and Palmer fame. The concert notes read that this piece was composed in a barn adjacent to the house, where afternoons spent at the Steinway would draw an audience of birds to the rafters above. The Concerto's three movements celebrate the cycle of nature - "its joy, its destruction and...its optimistic triumph". As we're heading into fall, and the first leaves are beginning to settle on the lawns and driveways, I was caught by the image of the turn of the seasons and the inevitable "destruction" of nature.

The cycle of seasons is nothing new - I've been talking about the fruit of summer quite a bit in the previous posts and a friend of mine speaks often of the inner work that happens during the winter, when all is barren on the outside. Still, it was interesting to settle a bit into the coming season of fall, and contemplate the yearly composting that nature undertakes. Composting often involves taking our scraps and leftovers, perhaps the tomatoes that didn't quite make it, or the rinds from cantaloupes or watermelons and placing them in a bin or pile to turn over time into rich, dark earth. But much of what nature composts are leaves that fall from myraids of forest trees, leaves that all summer have performed their function well, have not faltered in their photosynthesis, nor failed to give shade when called. Still, the change of sunlight and temperature commands they must fall, and fall they do into mounds and mounds. Those that fall in our yards are raked and set aside for the county trucks which vaccuum them up like cat hair. But if you live in rural Pennsylvania, you simply allow them to add yet another layer to the padded carpet that anchors the woodsy undergrowth.

Dan and I had been talking that morning at breakfast about the process of being deconstructed. How it's easy to understand why the stripping away of what's not pleasant or helpful or healthy is important, and even necessary for maturity. But what about those aspects of your personality that have been helpful over the years - the very things that have helped you navigate successfully thus far in your life, your sense of intuition, your abiity to judge accurately, your vision of the future (or even the present)? Surely these things shouldn't fall from the tree. And yet, our experience seems to suggest that even what has been good and helpful might need to fall. Even what has served us well might come to the end of a cycle of usefulness, and now need to be given back to the earth, to be plowed under, to become the stuff from which we will receive the nouishment that is needed for the next season. The idea of becoming stripped bare again, of letting go of past successes, and embracing the destruction of even what is good seems uncomfortable at best, terrifying at worst. 

I do get a sense that this is what the recent season of our life has been about. Of course, I'm the eternal optimist, and so, like Emerson, I trust that having let it all fall, after waiting patiently for the decomposition, we will be ready and nourished for the spring that lies ahead and the fruit it will bring.



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