A good portion of our backyard is a natural wooded area with native yaupon and juniper trees. One autumn day a few years ago I was delightfully surprised to discover a young oak tree, about five feet tall at the time, growing in some thick brush. Its red, orange and golden leaves gave it away. I tied a tag around its small trunk so I wouldn’t accidentally cut it down over the winter. Since then I have kept the area around it cleared to give it some growing room, and the little oak tree has indeed grown.
Each autumn, the oak leaves turn brilliant shades of red and orange, making the tree stand out beautifully from its always-green neighbors. But that display, as magnificent as it is, doesn’t last very long. After a few weeks, the tree begins to let go of those beautiful leaves. One by one, they flutter silently to the ground. And because of that, when spring comes, there is room for a whole new set of leaves. With those new leaves, the oak tree grows taller and stronger. And with the arrival of autumn each year, the colorful display is more magnificent than the year before.
It’s a great reminder of the importance of letting go. As colorful and vibrant as the good times are, if we hold too tightly to them we lose the opportunity to experience their joy. Likewise, during the cold winters of difficulty if we become obsessed with the unfairness of it all, and filled with anger and resentment, we perpetuate our own burdens. By letting go, in the good times and the bad, we’re able to grow and to move continually forward.
The oak tree is also a reminder of how very easy it can be to let go, once we choose to do so. The tree doesn’t try to push its leaves to the ground. It simply lets them fall. Then, in the winter and early spring when it is bare, it doesn’t struggle to take in nourishment. It just allows that abundant nourishment to flow naturally into its limbs and branches.
In the little oak tree that’s not so little anymore, there’s a lesson in how to be beautiful, and strong, and ever more prosperous. That lesson is — let go and allow.