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.