Sunday, February 1, 2009

Holding On

"All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on."
Havelock Ellis*

I am so not computer savvy. I don't have a clue how to link one blog to another inside a post. Other people can highlight a word and when you click on it, you are transported to the site they want you to see. Personally, I think it's magic.

After I read a recent Bedlam Farm post, I really wanted to know how to do magic. Katz posted a picture of what he calls "the last leaf in the forest." One brown leaf, clinging by an invisible thread to an empty branch in a starkly barren New England wood. It's a rather amazing photograph. Amazing that the leaf was able to stay connected to that tree even in the midst of so many odds. As if to say to the world, "don't count me out yet."

Amazing also that the man was there at the exact right moment to capture the beauty, strength and resiliency of the leaf. I wonder, is it possible that having its picture taken for posterity was why the leaf was there? So it could be a reminder to those who are at a place of giving up, that hanging on is the better alternative.

Like the dandelion in my previous post, I'm struck by the similarity of the lone leaf and scads of people who try to survive in their own bleak forests of fear, doubt, heartache, illness, or poverty. For reasons too numerous to count people everywhere are feeling alone, left to fend for themselves, or maybe just hanging on to whatever life they know by fingernails of faith and hope. In our singular worries we often close the door on the rest of the world, making the fear even greater. Our computers, cell phones and blackberries create a false sense of connectedness. Ironically at the same time we need more human contact we settle for less.

If I've learned anything in my lifetime, it is the truth of the too often used saying, "this too shall pass." I've been like that leaf, holding on by nothing more than a prayer. Yet, when the time was right someone I trusted at a gut level convinced me to let go of the old way, and make room for something new. This is the natural order of things. Day follows night, spring follows winter, and, if we're lucky, chocolate cake follows a dinner of tuna noodle casserole.

Letting go is hard to do. Each of us has to learn for ourselves when it's the right time to hold on and when it's okay to let go. I wonder, is that my Dad's daily stuggle? His wife and most of his friends are gone to the big green forest in the sky. Yet he is still here - hanging on. Kind of dried up and brittle but with all his faculties and enough strength that he hasn't yet released his hold on this life. When will that day come? Will it be a storm of illness that knocks him off his center? A gentle breeze that whispers, "come with me"? Or will he just let go and flutter to the place where souls go to be rejoined with loved ones?

Come Spring the frozen NY forest that Katz photographs is going to be abundant with foliage again. The trees will be full of leaves and buds and birds and buzzing things. In other words, life will return. It's what makes the holding on so important. If you let go too soon, you miss a lot of life. I recall that in the bleakest days of my depression, my world was devoid of color. I only saw things in shades of gray. What a joy it is today to see beauty in dandelions and love in a bag of chips (see post below). Life isn't always easy, but the Pollyanna in me has the glad game for a back up.

Because I live in Florida I can't quite fathom what the northern states experience with snow storm after snow storm. But still, I've seen enough brown grass and wilted ferns in the last few weeks. I'm anxiously waiting for spring bulbs to bloom. Don't you know they are pushing their green stems up through the frozen ground getting ready to make a joyous debut? That's the way God works, I think, just when you've seen all the brown (or snowy white as the case might be), the world explodes in color.

Wishing for you strength to hold on and cheery colors in your life,
Merry ME

*British sexologist, physician, and social reformer.

P.S. In 1982 Leo Buscaglia wrote a book called The Fall of Freddie the Leaf with a similar message as to what I've written. According to the jacket cover, it is a "warm, thought-provoking story about how Freddie and his companion leaves change with the passing seasons and the coming of winter. It is a beloved classic that has helped thousands of people to come to grips with life and death."

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