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As autumn slowly draws us into winter here in North America, I am reminded of the beautiful gingko tree in my front yard. As the days shorten its lovely, thick green leaves turn a uniform yellow golden color. The tree is truly stunning. The fall color daily reminds me that the tree will soon be bare. 

The interesting thing about this tree is not just the ways in which it changes with the seasons, but the very particular way it loses its leaves. 

Unlike other deciduous trees, most of the bright yellow leaves come down in a single day. Once, I left for the gym in the morning and all the leaves were still on the tree. I returned a couple of hours later to find most leaves on the ground. If I’m lucky enough to be there when they begin to fall, it sounds as if it is raining leaves. 

My experience with other deciduous trees influenced what I thought would happen. Maple, ash, tulip, and sycamore – trees in my neighborhood – lost their leaves slowly. I would see some of them blowing loose on a breezy day. Others were brought down by wind and rain. As summer ended and colder temperatures arrived, I would appreciate the deepening crunch of dried leaves. 

Leaves on the ground came to be a symbol of the transition of seasons.

Recently I relocated to Arizona. The climate here has been teaching me about seasons of change. Not only am I recalibrating my life to a new time zone and community, but I am also learning to look for indicators of autumn. What seems like stark seasonal cues in the Midwest are very subtle here. 

For instance, the cooling temperatures, the slowly shifting location of sunrise and sunset, and the possibility of taking a late morning walk or enjoying an outdoor yoga class have become real. The air conditioner isn’t running 24/7 and I can drive with my car windows open. These subtle cues are a stark contrast to the visual and temperature changes in the Midwest. They don’t mean that nothing is happening, but rather that I need to be more observant. 

Whether in the Midwest or Arizona, seasonal changes remind me that everything changes. Changes both internal and external occur because of times of great transition. They can feel like slow steady losses or sudden all-at-once shifts. They can seem so subtle as to be unnoticeable unless we are really looking. 

Even what can seem like the hardest season of our lives is not the final story.

If you are in the midst of a seismic change, look for the small indicators that something more is happening. Find ways to remind yourself that things won’t always be this way. Seek out friends tapping into your support network to remind you that you are not where you were. Ask for help; find a transition coach or a therapist. Trust that what may look like a lack of movement may actually be very small shifts that are bringing you forward towards wholehearted living.

Share in the comments your favorite way to remind yourself that change is possible.

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