Finding Spiritual Sustenance in the Fall Foliage

Nature can heal us—and challenge us. Authentically positive thinkers embrace both these truths.

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Posted in , Sep 16, 2021

Spiritual autumn

The naturalist John Muir wrote, “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” 

As the leaves start to change colors and float to the ground in all their crunchy, russet majesty, Muir’s words are on my mind.

The beauty of nature in the fall is both glorious and fleeting. I love the idea that there’s strength to be found in both. 

Muir asks us to both “play” and “pray” in nature, to recognize both the sacredness of natural cycles and seasons and the joys of comparing leaf colors, and even leaping into piles we’ve raked up through our less-than-playful hard work. 

His words are a call to find balance in our lives. In Muir’s formulation, we don’t need to choose between play and prayer, or between beauty and bread. We need all these things, balanced in relationship with each other, to fulfill our bodies and souls—to find healing and strength.

This fall, we had hoped to feel renewed and refreshed, in a post-pandemic moment of return and resilience. The reality has turned out to be quite a bit more complicated than that. Muir’s words offer subtle context—“nature may heal,” he writes. Then again, for survivors of natural disasters and the ongoing pandemic, nature may also challenge us deeply and painfully.

How we navigate this complex reality is, in my view, where the true strength and healing emerge. May we each find moments of joyful play and prayerful reflection, moments when we can rediscover the beauty we need to nourish ourselves, body and soul.

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