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On Becoming

Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. 
Behold, I will do a new thing . . .
—Isaiah 43:18-19

They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces were not ashamed.
—Psalm 34:5

Most Octobers, I admire the leaves as they change from glory into glory.

But this time, I know their struggle.

After all, it’s not “Who am I?” that’s the question. It is “Who am I becoming?”

What will the leaves become when the sugar draws down and chlorophyll fades out and their true colors are revealed? Do they ever wonder?

I’m wearing autumn on my heart this year. I empathize with the trees. I walk the neighborhood as I walk my life, looking for clues. I am uncertain. I notice the leaves that are still emerald, and others whose tips are already dipped in warm and bright colors. I witness a slow fade of vermilion and nod yes, me too. Change is coming, but what will the end resemble?

Photo: Suby Wildman

We are at a bending place, the trees and I. When the wind comes, they moan, they rattle, they creak. Early birches sigh as they loosen their fringe to float free. They seem to struggle less than I do against the transformation. 

I am not floating yet. But I am watching intently and wondering at what point I will be ready to release? Perhaps fly? Where will the Spirit-wind take me?

There are days I cling to summer as if clinging to the child in me. I dread the coming chill and face it with squared shoulders, defensive. I have thought of autumn as a time of dying down into the earth — preparation for lying fallow through the winter, dormant, resting before the spring’s churning, a gutsy rebirth.

This year, the spring green inside of me is fading, but not dying. So it is with my leafy friends as well. They have feasted on sunlight since their nascence, preparing endless meals for their greater body, the tree herself. But in this cool and darkening time, green chlorophyll retracts and draws its verdant color out of each leaf. What remains are the brighter hues, the rubies, ambers, gold. They have been there all along, hidden. Now as one season fades, a brilliant new one is revealed.

I pay attention, and I have learned some things. I see now that one cannot hide from the light or from the dark. I know a shy oakleaf hydrangea who sometimes poses her leaves one behind the other. She is beautiful but bashful. And the under-leaves, the ones who tremble behind the sturdier ones, they have no color at all. They have allowed themselves no true light and guard themselves from bitter nights — they bear only a fragment of their own glory.

There are some trees whose autumn robes are honest brown. I wear this color well, trusting it to fade me into the background. Gold is too showy. It would be easier to be an oak — tall and proud, stubborn and guarded. I could hold fast my dying leaves and not release them until the new ones were already known, their budding sheltered by my withered former self. The safety here is appealing and useful. Dependable oaks feed the squirrels better than brazen maples. I long to be consistent and useful, like these. But does an oak arrest you with the pure wonder of reliable beige?

This process of becoming radiant cannot happen without loss, nor without the night. Photosynthesis is the mechanism of creating something with light. Its autumnal reverse might be the drawing down of the growing dark. I have felt that. I have walked in bright times of clear path and next steps. Yet I have been waiting for a new season to be revealed in me. I have known the restlessness in my spirit that signals change is coming.

Photo: Suby Wildman

This is no longer an unwelcome arrival. I see that things cannot stay the same.  I am quite familiar with the shadowed doorway I must move beyond in order to walk towards the light and the new day. I too have put food on the table for many years now. This has been my foremost goal — provision for the larger body representing myself.  Today they make the lunches themselves, and I have been asking “What next, Lord? What becomes of me? Who becomes me?”

Autumn is not about the slow fade, nor about going out in a blaze of glory. It’s about the gradual revelation of the self that comes next. The increasing dark with its percipient chills initiates the gradual reveal. The splendor of the colors has been there along. It is only when the green disappears from the leaves and the cool air of the Spirit wafts through discerning nights that the color, having been there all along, is known.

This is the mystery of becoming.



Allison Gaskins writes beneath a window inside a snug closet in her Virginia home. She is the author of several books, including 31 Days of Prayer for My Child, and is a member of the Art House America National Advisory Council. She is mom to five and wife to a very patient husband. She is a lover of beauty in its most simple forms and a collector of words.

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Reader Comments (3)

I am new to the Art House America blog and what a surprise to find someone familiar! Thank you Allison for sharing your insights and beautiful words. I am inspired to take a closer look and linger a little longer in the cool, autumn air.

October 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJulie Christou

What a beautiful, timely piece, Allison. Thank you for your rich, poetic words. "We are at a bending place, the trees and I." Yes! I certainly share your mix of wonder and strangeness as you find yourself being pulled from one phase of life into the next. Fall has always been my favorite season, even though it signals the inevitable turn toward winter and darkness. The stunning trees. The crisp air. The clarity of the night sky. The call of migrating geese. In my town it is the Sweetgum that blazes brightest. All of this. And if God is in the beauty, God is surely in the darkness too.

A profound book for the journey you may want to check out: Falling Upward--A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, by Richard Rohr. It's been tremendously helpful and hopeful for me. Thanks again for your lovely post. Blessings.

October 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMary Van Denend

Allison, this is a beautiful piece of writing, and entered my soul not only like a balm, but prophetically: encouraging, strengthening and comforting. Thank you so much.

November 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPat Butler

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