Nothing speaks of changing seasons more than deciduous trees. Through heavy leafing in summer, trees maximize their potential to capture and convert the sun’s energy. Then, in winter, trees shut down their investment in growth, and through this they save energy for the spring surge back to life.
Wayne Muller’s beautiful book, Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives describes the striking parallel between the cycle of activity and dormancy in the natural world and in us. He writes:
Sabbath honors the necessary wisdom of dormancy. If certain plant species, for example, do not lie dormant for winter, they will not bear fruit in the spring. If this continues for more than a season, the plant begins to die. If dormancy continues to be prevented, the entire species will die. A period of rest in which nutrition and fertility most readily coalesce is not simply a human psychological convenience; it is a spiritual and biological necessity. A lack of dormancy produces confusion and erosion in the life force.
We, too, must have a period in which we lie fallow, and restore our souls. …. When we act from a place of deep rest, we are more capable of cultivating what the Buddhists would call right understanding, right action, and right effort. In a complex and unstable world, if we do not rest, if we do not surrender into some kind of Sabbath, how can we find our way, how can we hear the voices that tell us the right thing to do?
Trees know when to surrender to the natural rhythm of activity and rest. Their life and health depend on respecting this rhythm. As we approach autumn and leaves begin to fall, could we allow trees to remind us of the necessity for this rhythm in our lives too?
I must confess I have been slow to learn this rhythm. I am glad for this reminder from trees and from Wayne Muller. May I awaken to the message my life – and the natural world – is offering to surrender to Sabbath.