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The Tumbleweed Connection

The Tumbleweed

I recently moved two miles northwest of my last home, and one would think that I’ve landed on another planet. I mean, I’ve lived on the eastern plains of Colorado for the last five years—but now, I’m on the plains, plains where tumbleweeds—old, dried up and unhinged Russian thistle, run wild and free.

We get some pretty fierce winds blowing across the prairie…which sadly, is becoming less and less prairie as new housing developments are popping up faster than you can say the word, “tumbleweed.” The more we encroach upon their territory, the less room those tumbleweeds have to roam. Where back-in-the-day, they could tumble and roll for miles and miles before perhaps being brought to a sudden halt by a boundary fence somewhere in the middle of nowhere, now not only do they have more boundary fences, but hundreds upon hundreds of new homes to slam into. And slam they do!

Two weeks into October, Denver was blasted with a low pressure system that brought in monstrous winds and a 60 plus degree temperature drop that left us in the mid-teens by nightfall. The sudden cold snap shocked every leave on every branch of every tree and bush. Adorned just hours earlier with a regalia of colorful attire, what was left in its wake were dead, brittle, brown leaves seemingly “frozen in time” on their branches. It was as if they were just as surprised and dismayed as we were by their abrupt demise. This season’s leaves would be forever deprived of giving and we of receiving their gift---showing off their splendorous, colorful wardrobe against the backdrop of an equally splendorous Colorado blue sky. It simply wasn’t meant to be.

That was bad enough. The next day (which of course was warm and beautiful) beckoned a walk. When I opened my front door and looked across the street, I was absolutely astounded by the mass scale of tumbleweeds that had nestled themselves firmly and cozily into the bushes, trees, porches, fences---every corner and crevice of each neighbor’s home---both front AND back! We’d been hit by a blizzard of tumbleweeds! There were so many stacked and tangled webs of them that when gathered, they grew to the size of a Mack truck! I’d never seen anything like it and my heart went out to my neighbors who were confronted with the daunting task of breaking up each and every one and stuffing every prickly tendril into giant Hefty lawn bags. It took them days of back-breaking labor and many bags to get the job done. I had to chuckle a little bit when I saw one neighbor, whose house backs up to the prairie, come AROUND to the outside perimeter of his boundary fence and begin to furiously rake, in what appeared to be more an act of desperation and defiance---the tumbleweeds BACK into the prairie---as if! As if his doing that was going to stop any of them from traveling as soon as another stiff wind blew! Proof that we can’t fight Mother Nature, but I had to give him credit for trying and was grateful for the laugh.


I must admit that after the storm hit, I felt sad for the trees and the bushes. And, I felt sorry for myself. Our wet spring and cool summer seemed to have laid the perfect groundwork for a spectacular fall. And it was happening. And it was beautiful. Until it wasn’t. It simply wasn’t meant to be. I was disappointed.

But then, I remembered the spring of 2015---the spring that took by beloved away from me. Then, the trees and bushes were budding or in bloom when a late spring snowstorm swept through all but decimating them. Yet, it had taken a mere two weeks before those same battered trees and bushes began to look resplendent once again. I’d admired their resilience and prayed that I could one day emulate them. They had endured the worst that could befall them with complete equanimity. They simply surrendered to what had unfolded, without judgement, expectation, or suffering. They had allowed what was---to simply be.

These days, as I walk along the path that runs parallel to the prairie, I love looking out beyond the fencing, which tries but (obviously) fails miserably to contain some of its inhabitants! I enjoy watching those twisted balls of twine surrender to the wind---rolling freely to and fro with wild abandon and no attachment to outcome. Like the falling leaves of autumn, they’ll eventually “land” where they are meant to land, even if it’s in a big old Hefty trash bag that will be hauled off to the dump. Again, they accept what fate befalls them with complete equanimity.

The vastness of our grief is as vast as the western plains. Like the tumbleweeds that roam there, we must allow ourselves to be blown to and fro, and learn to ride the wind of our sorrow. We must learn how to surrender to wherever our grief might take us, without resistance. Without attachment. We must give ourselves over to the process with an open heart and with trust and faith that wherever we land, that’s exactly where we are meant to be in that moment. The greatest lesson that Nature can offer us is this: “Allow what is, to simply be.” This is where our peace lies. Amen.



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