I’ll admit that even as I’m enjoying the beautiful colors of autumn, I still feel melancholy. If you’ve been reading here for any length of time you know that I share photos from my garden, and now my garden is dying. This weekend my task was to pull the last of the plants and prepare the others for cold weather. At first I was dreading this, but I had forgotten how beautiful dying things can be.
While the leaves on the maple in my yard approach oblivion like the phoenix, positively ablaze, most of the other growing things are less dramatic. They have bent and dried, faded to gray or at least a paler, ghostly version of themselves. Greens have become browns, or black; bold, rounded shapes are now prickly, pointed, jagged.
The Japanese wabi-sabi aesthetic recognizes the beauty of these things. The “wisdom of wabi-sabi” shared by Leonard Koren in his book, “Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers,” looks to nature for these truths: “All things are impermanent. All things are imperfect. All things are incomplete.” It finds beauty in ugliness, in simple, earthy things, and in the inevitability of change.
That’s an oversimplification, of course, but others talk about this process, this “falling apart,” as the natural course of things. In her book (titled—are you surprised?—“When Things Fall Apart”) American Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön says, “We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart.” We know this, don’t we? All of this end-of-season work in the garden, pruning and removing the deadwood and weeds, feels like falling apart. But it’s making way for things to come back together again in the spring. None of it is permanent: it’s a process of growing and dying, a process of changing.
I’ve been struggling lately with some upcoming business changes. These decisions have made me feel like things are falling apart. I just want to put them back together again so I can keep things the same, but I know that I can’t do that. And today I feel better about it. As Pema Chödrön says, things “come together and they fall apart.” This is how things are supposed to be. Now I’m looking forward to seeing how the new things come together.
How about you? How do you deal with change? Do you feel like the “falling apart” of things is something to be avoided? Or do you enjoy the process?