by Cynthia Ruchti

Ombre. Color that is graduated in tone. From light pink to dark pink. Light gray to charcoal. Or this:

Light radiance to dark rust. 

This far north, the brilliant colors of autumn are in decline. I watched leaves ripped from their moorings by an impatient wind, scattered like the snowflakes that will too soon take their place.  If I could, I would have gathered the gold and reattached the leaves to the tree so I could enjoy this brief season a little longer.

But the tree itself–its presence–reminded me of the fruitlessness of that pursuit and the purpose of the entire life cycle. Not just birth. Not just growth. Death, too.

This tree graces our south yard because its parent tree–we’ve always thought of it as a she–in the north yard lost its life. The mama tree was magnificently huge, dominating the yard with much sought after shade in the summer and a true spectacle of color every fall. It served as our family connecting point. “If there’s ever a house fire or other disaster and we have to evacuate, we’ll all meet at the big maple.”

Two decades ago, disaster took out our gathering spot. Lightning made an opening for disease. Eventually, we had no choice but to rev up the chain saw and end its to-that-point life. My husband made key chains out of discs cut from smaller branches and memory boxes from planks harvested from the trunk. The family held each other–I know, sappy…and isn’t that ironic?–as we watched the tree fall, overcome by the soberness of losing such a great tree. At the time, we didn’t know we’d have keychains and memory boxes. All we knew was the loss of a cherished sentinel in the north yard.

From the base of the tree, my husband also dug a sapling.

The above picture is that sapling twenty years later. It had such a slow start, as if it too missed its mama. Failure to thrive. Then, a few years ago, it sported more than a handful of leaves. Not enough to make a scene, or decent shade, but signs of life. Now, it claims its own identity in a different part of the yard, but with an ombre brilliance that reminds us of its heritage.

The sapling might have been mowed down if not for the loss of the parent tree and our desire to pull something living from our losses.

The life lessons lie as thick as the crisp leaves at a tree’s base. 

  •  What seems like loss may lead to a new beginning.
  •  Beauty can’t help but reproduce itself.
  •  The full picture takes a long time to develop.
  •  Salvaging art from the broken keeps beauty alive.
For the novelist mourning the end of a season, or the loss of a dream, or a redirection that seems either radically different or familiar but decades long in coming, the image speaks of hope and courage.
In His Word, God tells us that unless a seed falls to the ground and dies, it cannot produce the fruit it was intended to birth. 
            John 12:24 CEB–I assure you that unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, 
            it can only be a single seed. But if it dies, it bears much fruit.”
Much fruit.
Before the rest of the leaves fall from this tree, more insights will emerge. That’s the nature of nature.
When has an element of creation spoken a strong message of hope to you?
Cynthia Ruchti is an award-winning author and speaker who tells stories hemmed in hope. Her latest releases include Mornings With Jesus 2015 (a compilation of daily devotions with nine other writers), Ragged Hope: Surviving the Fallout of Other People’s Choices (nonfiction), and the novels When the Morning Glory Blooms and All My Belongings. You can connect with her through cynthiaruchti.com or www.facebook.com/CynthiaRuchtiReaderPage.