by Ann Milliken Pederson
We were meant to fall: never created perfect in the first place. Falling is what leaves do best when the season turns from the hot intensity of summer to the crisp, chilly air of fall. My hibiscus is still radiating with the warmth of summer even as it is brought into the light of my south facing window where it will stay until next spring. The intensity of color—the pink of hibiscus and the orange and gold of leaves alert my eyes to pay attention. I always claim that fall is my favorite season. However, when school starts and the stacks of papers waiting to be graded loom in front of me, my view of life dulls and exhausts the joy and beauty of this season I so love. The colors turn pale in light of what I feel I must do. Why do I always associate falling with failing? Falling is what leaves do best and so I must take their cue. I need to learn to fall—to let go, again and again. Falling into piles of leaves, into the sun warmed days with a tinge of cold, falling into the breeze that will soon blow with frigidity. Falling and letting go of all those burdens that cloud my vision. Letting go of the cataracts of lists and expectations that cloud my view. Learning to fall like leaves into the brilliance of transitions and color so that something new can become again.
We were never created perfect in that first time and place, in that Garden that was our home. God said, “Good” and even “very good.” But never, “Perfect” or “Done.” The traditional story of the Fall implies that we fell once upon a time, from some kind of perfection that we will never have again until we reach our heavenly home. But what if we are always falling? What if those stories about Adam and Eve are meant to tell us that falling is built into who we are? Rabbis remind me that the word sin is never used in Genesis 2 and 3 anyway. Sin doesn’t show up in the text until Genesis 4 with the killing of the brother. What if I can learn to fall like the leaves in the fall? Can we learn to let go from the warmth of the summer, dying to its brilliant heat and falling into the warm ground that will use our life to renew the ground, providing fuel for the next spring? Winter brings us into spaces created for rest, hibernation, and restoration. What if falling is learning to embrace our imperfections, our mortality? Atul Gawande’s best seller, Being Mortal, captures our human condition—we are finite, limited, imperfect, marvelous creatures who are not only being mortal, but always becoming mortal. Each day we learn how to live and how to die. Each day is a practice run for our dying and rising, our being and becoming, our falling and rising.
Falling is what leaves are created to do. Falling is what humans are created to do. The leaves become food for the winter ground so that the spring plants return with vigor and green. I am learning to fall, letting go of those branches which hold me up so that I can fall freely into the hands of the One who transforms our fallings into new moments of brilliant new life.