I went for a long walk the other day to try and capture some fall colour with my camera. Shortly after setting out, I started thinking I wasn’t going to be successful. The leaves had turned weeks ago, and we’d had a few bad windstorms in the meantime. The trees were looking patchy and sad. I’m too late, I thought, and almost went home.But, as I walked, I looked more closely and focused on the leaves that were still on the trees. I peered at them, noticing how the sunlight shone through. Some were still a vibrant red, orange or yellow and glowed with an inner light. Others had gone translucent and I could see their delicate inner structure revealed in a way I wouldn’t have during the spring or summer. I took photos of those gently glowing leaves and marveled at what their transformation revealed – and the gift I’d received in noticing them.
There’s a phrase that makes its way around social media during the fall. It goes something like “The trees are about to show us just how lovely it can be to let go.” The words echoed in my head as I snapped photos of those leaves and took in their beauty. I couldn’t find out through Google who originally had that insight, but they were right.
I’m receiving a lot of lessons in letting go lately. Maybe it’s the events of 2020, that I’m getting older, or something else. Probably a mix of things. No matter the reason, the call to let go keeps repeating in many forms. There have been realizations that I can’t do everything and that endlessly scrolling social media for the latest on COVID-19, the U.S. election, or some other calamity probably isn’t the best thing for my mental health. I’ve gotten subtle – and sometimes insistent – urgings from loved ones that I might not need to worry so much about something I can’t control.
It’s not easy, letting go. Because it means admitting I’m not in control, and I don’t like that. I want to think I’m in control even when I know, deep down, I’m really not.
Other poems and prayers about letting go have been coming to me lately, too. Someone reminded me about the Serenity Prayer and the words “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.” The person leading a Zoom morning prayer group the other day pointed us to a poem by Edwina Gately called “Let Your God Love You.” I was so taken with the poem’s call to stop and be silent so that God can look upon you with “enormous love.” It’s a beautiful poem about surrendering and letting go into God’s love – something I needed to hear right then to settle my preoccupations and worries about the day ahead.
Part of the prayer liturgy for another morning was the phrase “Let us now surrender our own expectations for this day, and ask to be led by the working of the Spirit.” Again, another invitation to let go and trust and move through my day in a contemplative, open way rather than one focused on controlling outcomes.
Apparently, letting go is a lesson I’m forever learning, and this year has seemed like I’m doing an advanced degree in it. Perhaps one day I’ll graduate. Until then, I’m going to try and heed those invitations to let go, surrender my expectations and let God love me. They seem to be bubbling up all around, and each is an opportunity to stop, refocus and realize what’s most important.
Kevin Aschenbrenner is a Victoria-based writer, poet and communications professional. He holds an M.A. in Culture and Spirituality from the Sophia Center at Holy Names University in Oakland, Calif. He blogs at www.dearpopefrancis.ca.
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* This article was also published in the print edition of the tImes Colonist on Saturday, Novemeber 21st 2020
Photo of leaves by Kevin Aschenbrenner