(This post was originally published the week before Thanksgiving last year. Maybe I’ll publish it each year at the height of leaf-raking season. As shown here, I’ve varied its details slightly to accord with 2018 instead of 2017, and shortened its original length, but its metaphor—I hope—remains good.)
During summer, our house swims in shade.
I love shade!
Otherwise our experience of summer in SW Virginia is hot, hot, hot. But our house is surrounded by large oaks and maples, and they keep us in shade, blessedly.
When we bought our house, the woman next door said, “You poor guy, you have no idea what trouble you’re in.”
I wasn’t in trouble—I was in shade!
We are grateful for our trees, which keep our house cooler and reduce our cooling cost all summer long. The trees cool us because they are covered with leaves. Come fall—which begins in November—the leaves turn yellow, and…they fall.
Billions of them.
Billions upon billions upon billions of them.
They inundate our yard, roof, gutters, porch, driveway, patio, and parking area in back.
Our neighbor was right. The raking job is an enormous task. It is an enormous, on-going task, and it lasts through most of two months.
There is a God point to this blather about leaves. The God point is metaphorically about the last leaf to fall.
Here in our valley we get wind storms. We got a big one five days ago. It was a strong, cool wind (thank the Lord!) roistering through the trees from the northwest, sending that day’s billion of leaves before it—like snow. We had a blizzard of leaves.
Have you noticed something about leaves?
They like moving in a gang. They all make up their minds at the same time, and then they do what the others do. When the wind comes along, they all let go and tumble, as though they were the crazy idea of some slap-dash painter, flinging yellow flakes of tinsel down the air.
But—no—not all of them.
Our blizzard died away. I went outside. The day was cooler than before, and the air was still now, with the sun bright and slantways from low down in the west. Everywhere that I could see, I saw inches—even a foot—of depth of yellow leaves.
I had intended to start by sweeping the porch, but I stopped.
High in one tree, way up, there was one single yellow leaf all by itself out on the end of a twig. It hung there, very still. It caught my eye because it was brightly lit against the blue of the sky by the shaft of the sun.
I watched it for a time, standing as I was in the quiet yellow of the aftermath of the blizzard. That leaf seemed almost to be making up its own mind. That leaf had hung on tight while the wind buffeted it, and while all its friends had let go and had flown. That leaf had hung on, waiting, maybe thinking something through.
What was the something that leaf was thinking through?
Perhaps its allegiance to the Lord.
Everyone else among its leaf friends had known what was right—what was manifest—to do. Everyone else had said, “We are a tide of Christian consciousness sweeping joyfully through the air and then covering the landscape of the Lord.” And they had done just that.
I thought to myself, that last leaf is like we were, my wife and I, eleven years ago.
Then I laughed to myself. Of course, that leaf has no soul—it’s a leaf.
But, I thought, I am a writer and a chaser after metaphor. I have a soul. I have a soul, and—like my one leaf—I had hung on tight to my anchoring point during my wife’s and my nine months of soul struggle, whether to press beyond Judaism toward our rebirth in Christ.
We had hung on, battling that stormy struggle through.
Yes or no?
To deny or to accept?
To let go and to go?
Or not to let go?
And—just as I reached this point in the framing of my thought—up there above me, after the end of the wind storm, that last yellow leaf let go.
As we had, too.
I watched that last yellow leaf flutter peacefully all the way down until it nestled comfortably with its yellow fellows.
Finally at one with the Lord.