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It was just one leaf – but it kept hanging on. That’s what I thought as I looked outside my bedroom window from Nov. 21 to Dec. 5. As I sat in my prayer space during those two weeks, I kept pondering the spunk of this lonely leaf (see the middle of our neighbor’s window). I thought about the trials of this political year and how caring for the common good can be tiring and frustrating. Yet, like the leaf, we hang on. We continue to go to meetings, call our congressional representatives, donate to worthy causes, and give a hand to those in need.

And then, on December 6, it was gone. I knew the leaf would eventually fall to the earth and become part of the ongoing cycle of life…But it gave me hope to see that it kept trying to stay connected. So my prayer turned to pondering my aging body and when would I die? And what would happen to the essence of my being after I died? Is there really an afterlife? Is there really a God? Or is this just a myth that helps people deal with the trials of life? Hmmm.

And then the birds came. Male cardinals – in their bright red plumage. Five of them flitted around the bare tree on Dec. 6. Cardinals are common in Kentucky. (It’s our state bird.) But five of them on one small dogwood tree at the same time. That was unusual. Maybe I noticed them that day because the tree was so bare. Then I started noticing the squirrels scampering across the wires. It always seems miraculous that they don’t fall. So my thoughts were pulled out of the depths of desolation and uncertainty to hope, the web of life, and the wonder of creation. I have no proof that there is an afterlife, but I have this intuitive sense that there are cycles to life and maybe it is more about being transformed and living through the next generation. I don’t know, but I can believe, and that shapes how I spend my days and hang on today.

And then there were the boxes of loose photos – approximately 1,500 photos stored neatly under a window bench. They lived in the land between conscientiously organizing them into photo albums and the digital era (1994 – 2004 for us). I discovered them because I was searching for some memento photos for a friend who was moving out of town. This started me on a compulsive roll. I decided to prune the obvious duplicates and poor quality photos. (See pile).

Then another insight – Hey, the kids will be coming home for Christmas soon, This could serve the dual purpose of reminiscing together and passing some photos on to them. I would then feel free to pitch the rest. It could be a way to say farewell to the old year and welcome the new – sort of a family bonding and purging time. (I’m writing this before the kids arrive so they may just chalk this up to one more of Mom’s corny ideas. Meanwhile, some of you might want to try the photo review yourselves – either this New Years or on some other family occasion.

Be mindful. Hanging on for awhile can be virtuous, but eventually we need to let go of the non-essentials to see more clearly and nurture the ongoing life around us. Nature can be a window to the soul.

Check out the ritual I created for letting go of Memorabilia: Letting Go Of a Symbol – Internalizing the Memory