Wouldn’t it be cool to track the flight pattern of leaves as they fall? I often think about the particular timing of each leaf, the gust of wind or slow separation from the branch that sends it on its way. I smile as I imagine the Olympic dismount of colorful leaves—the spins and twists, and if they stick the landing or tumble and blow, winding up far from their tree.

Right now, here in the northland, we are still enjoying bursts of color—leaves so brilliantly red, orange, and yellow, they look almost as if they are on fire. Falling leaves are part of the bigger picture of change that is afoot. The cooling temperatures, frosty windshields, diminishing bird song, and shortening daylight are all signals that transition is underway.

We humans begin to harden off—changing wardrobes, wearing layers as we get used to the cold weather coming our way. It’s headlamp time and wood stove season and training begins in earnest with the sled dogs as they run the trails pulling the ATV, building strength and endurance.

There’s no turning back, even if you are wistful for warm summer days. Soon enough, you’ll have your time again. But for now, autumn takes center stage.

There is a similar wistfulness at the conferences where I’ve spoken this fall. It isn’t about temperatures or seasons, it’s a dawning—reluctant or otherwise—that there is no going back to how things were. The mood is joyous in getting to be together again, coupled with melancholy for what has changed.

This virus has altered us, shaping who we will become moving forward. It carries the heaviness of loss and the revelations of systems long ignored that are collapsing under the added weight of a global pandemic. It reveals new ideas, improvements, different ways of being together and engaging. It evokes yearning for simpler times and bright new ideas on what’s possible.

In the lobbies or small group discussions, I hear the wish to return to “normal.” At least if “normal” was working for you. And I get it. And it’s not happening. As well it shouldn’t. There are things, large and small, in need of attention and change.

This isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. With the spiraling dance of each leaf, we can watch in wonder and learn, again, the beauty in letting go. The importance of your unique timing in releasing ‘what was’ and drifting, spinning, and twirling toward ‘what is,’ here in the Olympics of transition.