Tuesday, November 14, 2017


(dih-sij-oo-uh s)


  1. shedding the leaves annually, as certain trees and shrubs
  2. falling off or shed at a particular season, stage of growth, etc. as leaves, horns, or teeth
  3. no permanent; transitory

Deciduous, this word of the day from dictionary.com popped up my inbox on the first day of autumn.  The word, one learned in biology when students are introduced to the classification system, was certainly not a new one to me, yet the word took hold in my brain as if it were a negative concept with which I did not wish to consider.  

The word deciduous on the surface was certainly an appropriate word given the season.  As an adjective, it describes well what happens in fall:  deciduous trees and shrubs shed leaves.

That “word of the day” from the first day of autumn would not leave me alone.  Soon I was beginning to feel like a professor had assigned me this word as topic for a writing exercise.  Instead of sitting down and writing,  I let other tasks and interests shove the writing chore to the side.  I began to feel as if I had this large and long neglected writing assignment hanging over my head for weeks upon weeks.  

We are now well into autumn.  I am just now writing about that which I have been thinking for weeks. 

There is possibly no season more glorious than autumn. At the beginning of the season, the word deciduous evokes an entirely different response than it does at towards the end of season. 
In Colorado during the first days of autumn the newspapers will often have a headline that reads, There Is Gold in Those Hills.  

Maroon Bells
Near Aspen, Colorado
Fall 2015
Photographers head to the hills seeking a different golden reward than those long ago  prospectors who first settled in Colorado sought.  On those weekend when the leaves are at their peak in color, the mountain highways turn into urban like traffic jams.  Such ephemeral beauty is short lived.  

Nature dictates that each leaf on each deciduous tree will change from green to gold, red, or orange.  The aspen tree, robed in brilliant gold in the mountains of Colorado, demands our attention even as she knows she dare not boast of her fugacious attire because in no time, her frock has fallen to the ground.

The shedding of each leaf only adds to the beauty that a clump of deciduous trees creates.

I ponder the fleeting beauty that the first days of autumn brings.
Perhaps it is my age that causes me to think, “all of this will be over in a heartbeat."
When one reaches the autumn of life, the change that autumn brings brings new meaning.
One cannot help but draw an analogy of the evanescent aspect of the season of autumn to one’s own life when reaches the eighth decade of living.

In autumn memories of spring when one wore frocks of green are beginning to fade.  One looks about and sees others around them also robed in glorious colors and says to oneself, “I think I love the autumn of my life best of all.”  There seems to be even more vibrancy in this season. One almost forgets that such days are fleeting, temporary, transitory.  

One becomes most aware of the deeper meanings of deciduous in autumn.  

The outward appearance of deciduous trees may appear different in each season, 
but a deciduous tree is always 
a deciduous tree remains deciduous.  
Only its appearance changes.

The transition to these later days of the autumn of my life have been days when I’ve found myself shedding much of what I thought defined myself and my life. 

At the end of this past summer, I received an email  from a person I did not know asking me if I would be interested in working as a mentor/coach for both inservice and preservice teachers participating in training that would be funded by  a grant which had been awarded to the  University in the town where I live.  The person who sent the email introduced herself,  told me a bit about the position, and stated that I had been recommended for the position by several of her colleagues at the University.  All of these professors whom had recommended me were dear personal and professional friends of mine.  I wrote back and asked if we could meet to discuss the specifics of the position:  time expectations, responsibilities, the wage, etc.

A few days later I had the opportunity to meet the one whom had sought me out for the position.  She was joined by the principal investigator for the grant project for which I was being recruited.  Immediately, I was drawn to the scope of the work that would take place because the University had been awarded this grant.  I was drawn to the tasks I would be assigned.  The work I would do would be exactly what I once loved best to do:  working with teachers involved in teaching English as A Second Language.  I was drawn to the two intelligent and personable women with whom I was meeting and with whom I would work.  I wanted to work with them.  I wanted to do the work,  but I knew I needed to fully understand the scope of the position before I let my emotions say, “YES.”

They said the position was for twenty (20) hours a week, or a half- FTE (full-time equivalency).  I have worked at the University level enough to know that 20 hours would really mean that I would put in no fewer than thirty hours a week.  I also knew that I would have to develop lesson plans and a schedule that would work for myself and those I would be teaching, coaching, and mentoring.  As I sipped my Starbucks drink, and spoke with these wonderful professionals, I kept telling myself to not jump in with both feet.  I reminded myself not to forget that I was no longer in the summer of life.  

I left the meeting excited about the opportunity, so excited.  I tried to ignore the reality of the scope of the position.  I reminded myself that they even offered me ten (10) hours a week if that would work best for me.  

As I left the Starbucks where I had learned the specifics of a possible new opportunity,  the skies over the mountains turned black.  I watched heavy storm clouds begin to blow into the valley where I live.  Soon, a thick veil of rain and hail hid the clouds that had descended down the mountainside and into the valley.  I knew better that to drive into that storm.  I knew better than to even begin to enter the mouth of the valley because soon the road that led to my home would become a raging river.  I drove to the top of a bluff and sought shelter in a REI store.

As I shopped, I kept weighing the benefits of taking this job, all the time knowing I didn’t really want to work that many hours.  Yet, I wanted to feel productive again.  I wanted and needed professional and personal exchanges.  I missed that part of my life.  Deep in thought, I wondered through the store while the storm raged outside.  Hail was pounding the roof.  Then I heard, “Hi Sally.”  I turned to see Leanna standing there.  Leanna was one of my daughter Julie’s best friends from high school.  She has been such a faithful friend to our family since we lost Julie seven years ago.  “What are you doing these days?” she asked.

I spilled out my story about the job offer.  I told her how conflicted I was.  “Twenty hours are a lot of hours,” she said.  She even added that she was working that many hours in a demanding job and it was a lot.  I knew she was right.  I knew she had given me the answer I needed to hear.  

I told her how Julie used to ask, “Mom, when are you really going to retire?”  Julie wanted me to retire and enjoy life.  It was as if Julie had sent Leanna to me.  Leanna said, “I’m running the biggest race of my life tomorrow.  Julie has been on my mind.  I think of her everyday when I run.  She is the one who got me into running again.  I think she put you in my path today as I worry about the weather and the run.”  I think we both had tears in our eyes as we hugged and went our separate ways.  I know I did.  Those chance meetings can be just what we need somedays.  

I had such great clarity after I talked to Leanna.  All she had to say was, “Twenty hours is a lot.”  She is thirty years younger than I and in fantastic shape, yet she knows the toll that must be paid when one works twenty hours on a professional job  that requites a great deal of preparation and emotional and physical strength.  At this time in life, in this season, I did not wish to pay the price that I would have to pay to do a job I once loved and still greatly missed.
I was able to let that which no longer fit in this season of my life fall away.  


I’ve been doing a lot of sorting these days.  I've sorted through that which no longer fits for where I now am in life.  I have let much that I once treasured, but which I no longer have to hang on to,  fall away.  I am remembering with great joy those golden days that were before these days that signal that autumn has reached the midway point, but those days no longer define me nor do they constrict the days I now live.


Most of the leaves have now fallen from the trees near my home.  Some were hit with frost and snow early in the season, and so those trees, the beautiful maple trees outside my window,  did not wear on their usual showy red colors for long.  

The oak leaves have fallen and are now dry and brittle.  I see heaps of dry, crumbling brown leaves in the gutters of the street.  The wind catches them and blows them under bushes, or under porches.  It seems those gloriously colored leaves have been forgotten and reached a rather ignominious end.  

The shedding of that which is no longer needed by the tree in autumn does not attenuate the value of the tree or of the leaves which have been shed.  A deciduous tree sheds its leaves because that is what deciduous trees do.  As one ages, one also begins to shed that which no longer fits in the season of life where one now resides.  

The brittle, dry leaves are not useless.  They have a purpose.  They serve as mulch.  They protect the roots on the trees and other plants during winter.  They release nutrients back into the earth.  Nothing is lost.  These leaves are important for the life and growth of the tree even as they are shed and seem to be cast aside.

I’m learning that as I let that which is no longer needed to fall away, I too feel as if the roots at the core of my life feel protected, insulated, and nurtured.  I am honoring the season of life where I now live by recognizing the need for times when I need rest and restoration.  I have been trying to do that which feeds my soul and soothes my body as autumn comes to an end.  

It is good to recognize the seasons of life and embrace the lessons that each season brings.  Seasons are not permanent states.  All of nature changes with the seasons.  Seasons are transitory.  What was true of one’s life in one season is no longer true in another.  One cannot grow if one hangs on to that which identified a season that has now passed.  A deciduous tree cannot insist in fall to wear only green, nor can the leaves refuse to fall.  A deciduous tree is beautiful in any season.  A deciduous tree honors the seasons by changing as the season dictates.

There is great comfort in living in this season where I am able to allow that which is no longer needed to fall away.  

*Sometimes a word study evolves into a written piece.  I think about the meaning of a certain word.  I look at the synonyms and antonyms.  I keep lists of words that work with the word I have have been pondering.  English teachers play these crazy games with words for entertainment.  (I even like to diagram sentences.)  This post was written using words that were a part of my word study for the word deciduous.  It also is a post that sums up what has been going on in my life recently.  I’ve been sorting through that which is important in my life and allowing that which is no longer important to fall away.  


  1. Those aspens in the west are always incredibly beautiful!

  2. I think you made the right decision, Sally. As hard as it is to get older, it seems to have many upsides, one of them being wisdom. Very well written and lovely words to ponder. :-)

  3. Such a beautifully thoughtful post, Sally. You have been missed. I do think about you and wonder how you are doing. It is always somehow comforting to hear from you.

  4. beautiful thoughts, I read them to my husband who wants to return to his youth and homestead in no. idaho even though he is 72 and I am happily planted in So. Utah. Thanks!

  5. I gasped when I started to read this post. "Why is she even considering this?" was at the back of my mind. Although younger than you, and probably in better physical condition, I would never consider taking a 20 hour/week job. I don't want to make that kind of commitment or take on the responsibility.

    I put in 2 hours, twice a week, at the elementary school across town. That is enough. Maybe you could consider something like that. Many of the school chaplains are older than me, and they too find these few hours each week just right for this time of life.

  6. This is so thoughtful, Sally. And Leanna is right. Twenty hours is a lot. We are all different, all want to make a difference. But this sounds like it could be a little more demanding than your life plans allow right now. I'm so very glad you met her.

    The piece itself is beautifully written and I love your full circle approach to deciduous. It's a wonderful thought that we can shed things -- and that new things may grow in their place when the spring arrives.

  7. You are one of the respected elders now that deserve to share their wisdom as you have done so magnificently. You can perhaps share some of that wisdom on a volunteer basis to those who wish your moments of ESL expertice. The seasons have changed a bit globally as has our ability to work longer than age 65. It is ones personal choice in many cases to continue into the 70’s and 80’s yet one does need the health and strength for it. I agree that you selected wisely. You have other branches to work on as the next season comes your way. All the best to you.

  8. I think you also made the right decision. I am only 60 years old and just recently retired but the emotional demands of my job made me feel that I could no longer continue to perform it as I had for the past 35 years. The commute and the demands, the lengthy drive daily, both ways in heavy traffic, often in inclement weather...no.

    I thought about your mention of health issues recently and to be honest I am glad you thought about it carefully before letting your emotions answer for you.

    Good luck to you.

  9. Such a thoughtful post as always, Sally. I think you made the right decision; I understand how much you would have enjoyed the position, just as I also miss many aspects of teaching and interacting with young people. But the time commitment wouldn't have allowed you time for much else, and I know at this stage of my life, time is precious. The aspen trees are gorgeous!

  10. Well there it is Sally. A beautifully well written analogy that touches the heart. For me, at 76, the physical process began a shedding of my mostly outdoor activities and adventures some years ago. Now my spouse and I are in the downsizing phase largely due to her encroaching dementia and my caretaker role. Our guiding mottos are "we're a team and we keep on truckin". I'm content with that in the autumn of our lives...:)

  11. Oh, those words were just what I needed to hear--and from one English teacher to another. I'm turning 60 in just a few months, and I've decided this will be my last year. Retirement--time to turn the page. I need to remember your wise words as I navigate this next chapter.

  12. Oh, dear, Sally, per usual these days, I am slow getting to everything, but I am so happy I found this beautiful post on your blog today....just as you met Leanna, I needed to read this today. Such beautiful writing, and having recently witnessed beautiful CO in its Fall splendor, it is even more meaningful. So many days, my sister and I watched the leaves coat the earth and transfer there beauty to another path.
    I have been castigating myself up one side and down the other, thinking I need to be working, but this helps me to see what I really feel and need. After all, I am already working an 80 hr a week job as Nana.

    I believe you've made the right decision, and also that Julie was present helping you along.

    I'm trudging along through the grief here...good and bad, you know.
    I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving and that your health is stabilizing a bit.
    Love to you, Marcia

  13. I’m coming late to your post, Sally. Autumn has arrived and departed at my home in the mountains. I want to tell you how meaningful your writing is to me. Acceptance of where we are in life and moving forward without regret is often difficult. Sometimes, my ego wants me to say yes when my better judgement tells me to say no. Nature has its cycles and human life has cycles, too. Just because we aren’t employed anymore, doesn’t mean we can’t share ourselves and our life experiences in meaningful ways with others. I was so busy keeping busy for so many years that my time now seems precious to me. I think people enter our lives (and leave us) to offer guidance. Sometimes, the lessons we learn are hard but necessary. Your writing is always from the heart - it’s one of your many gifts. PS I remember how much I used to love diagramming sentences! (A need for control?)

  14. Dear Sally, I so responded to your posting because, like you, I am letting go of those many aspects of my past life that no longer mean anything to me or that I can no longer do easily. I am embracing a new way of being and finding more contentment deep down in that place within where Oneness dwells. Thank you for sharing your realizations, which stemmed from one word. Peace.


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