After 3 years of Camino walking, volunteering and hiking some pilgrimage routes in far-off lands, I decided that it was time to pause and reflect. In January ’19 chance brought me to a natural paradise island, the smallest inhabited Canary Isle on the edge of the Atlantic, for a 6 week voluntary placement. And it was here that I chose to put down temporary roots and create a little haven for myself.
Like all intuitive decisions, it turned out to be a good one. And one that has given me many humbling and empowering lessons; about Life, about myself and about others. Lessons that I am only now fully beginning to absorb and integrate into my conscious awareness of ‘How it is’.
So…it seems that autumn has become the perfect time, metaphorically and literally, to take stock, to sort the wheat from the chaff and to let a few things go. Which is as it should be.
I found myself thinking this the other day, as I was sweeping up the hundreds of fallen leaves from the two plum trees that sit directly in front of my little island home. They’ve been a constant, visual reminder of the changing seasons during my time here. And of how all things go through cycles. I remember, when I first came here in March, seeing their bare branches and the beautiful patterns that their shadows created on the gravel below. Then, how excited I felt when I saw the first tiny blossom bud appear on one of them, just before both trees exploded into a mass of frothy white and became honey pots for every passing wasp and bee. All within a matter of days.
Then came the fruit and more ripe plums than I could possibly eat, even though I did my best! “¡Cógelas! ¡Cógelas!” (Pick them! Pick them!) my landlord would say to me each week when he came to water his vegetable garden next door. And I just laughed and said “I’m doing my best!”.
And now, even though they still look green and abundant, they’re dropping bucketfuls of leaves every day, which I’m dutifully sweeping up, just to keep the patio clear. It’s become a bit of a ritual, like a religious observance. Which I suppose it is, in a way; communing with the plum trees and saying “Thank you for being my constant companions throughout this year. Thank you for all the beautiful moments we’ve shared together. Thank you for showing me, so visually, the changing of the seasons and how necessary change and letting go is to the growth-cycle of life, maturity and, ultimately, death.”
From the number of leaves still masking my direct view, across the rolling fields and down to the sea, I think this is a ritual that I’ll be carrying out every day now until I leave in January. But that feels good. Something constant and predicable. A little, daily, repetitive task; shedding, gathering and discarding, as we count down the final days of this year together.