My New Special Fall Friends

By Reverend Bobbie McKay, Ph.D.  •  September 30, 2021

Like so many other people, fall is my favorite season. I love the special warmth of the sun as it penetrates my skin. I marvel at the emerging colors that surround me in the fall foliage. I gather chrysanthemums on my patio to celebrate and honor these final days of summer - a ritual that signals the closing gifts of the season.

I used to simply observe the array of color changes that our trees present as fall gifts to the world. How beautiful the colors; how striking the change from green to red, orange and yellow.

I used to walk past these heralds of endings and new beginnings, marveling at the yearly process that allows this gorgeous display to return.

But this year, I am living in a senior facility which has given me an additional gift of a beautiful meadow just beyond my patio with four budding maple trees carefully spaced to allow each tree a full display of color. They have now become my new special fall friends.

Two large windows separate me from the outside world and grant me the privilege of a front row seat to the production about to emerge. I am an audience that waits with breathless anticipation for the season to begin.

This year, however, I have engaged my special fall friends in a pre-production dialogue. “What is it like for you to experience these changes of color that spontaneously appear in your leaves? How do you feel when you experience the loss of your leaves as they fall to the ground below?”

“Are you aware of the changes of temperature as the nights grow cooler and darker? As a living, breathing plant, can you feel the world’s admiration for the display you are providing?”
My “friends” do not respond in words. Rather they continue their journey from late summer into winter as the world adjusts to shorter days and longer nights.

In response, we human creatures start to feel the shifts in time and temperature and the emerging darkness. My special fall friends continue their process of shutting down and preparing for their winter sleep. Their falling leaves speak a message of closure: summer is over and winter is coming. But their announcement arrives in an amazing display of color that celebrates the closing days of summer.

On a grand scale, life has powerful lessons for us to learn that lead us to color-filled moments of growth and understanding. But life is also an ebb and flow of moments of color and moments of darkness and loss. My tree friends mount a display of both in their messages for each of us.

What shall I learn from my special fall friends this year? What new messages does God have for us in this repetitive cycle? I find myself watching with renewed interest for the first signs of changing colors and a new dialogue.

Life is change and my tree companions withstand the torrents of life, strengthened by their ability to survive. They bend and sway while the wind clears out the debris of their existence, blending with the storm rather than trying to resist the onslaught of wind and rain.

And when the storms are quiet, they stand tall and serene and I watch and wait for the finale of color that is about to begin.

Life is a series of repeated learnings and times of letting go: seasons of birth and growth; change and death. Like the final movement of a beautiful symphony, themes repeat and intersect in growing complexities until the closing notes are played...

And new life begins.


About the Author

Reverend Bobbie McKay, Ph.D.

The Reverend Bobbie McKay, Ph.D. is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and a licensed psychologist. She has completed a very large research study on “Spiritual Life in Mainstream Interfaith Congregations” with over 3000 participants in the study. From that extensive study, she created the “Spiritual Life Team Program” which enables people to identify and share their spiritual lives in a small group, non-psychologically oriented, setting. The groups have been 100% successful in enabling people to identify and share their spiritual lives. Dr. McKay is the minister of Spiritual Life at the Glenview Community Church. She celebrated her 50th anniversary of ordination in 2020. Dr. McKay was married to Lewis Musil who died in 2019. She has seven grandchildren and two great grandchildren!

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