Shangri-La in Autumn

Chicago’s extended autumn, with mild-ish weather for much of November, has allowed extra time for being in our garden (aka Shangri-La). I wrote in late June, in my Missive from Shangri-La experience, all about a retreat that literally opened my eyes to, as they say, “the diamonds in my own back yard.” That is, Shangri-La is present just outside my door. This outdoor space is where and how I’ve been rooted on many a day of inner journeys — whether writing, dreaming, dining, or conversing.

In this month for gratitude, with so much to be grateful for, I wanted to share some of the special gifts in my life. Our Shangri-La garden is one that I’m looking at with grateful (and grace-full) eyes. I’ve been out there most days barefoot and doing a simple Qi Gong practice, soaking up the beauty and energies from the earth, the trees, the sky, and crow flying over.

It looks different in autumn. The trees shed their leaves. The Tree of Heaven, also known as the ailanthus, loses its leaves first. The copper beach will be the last, hanging onto golden crisp leaves through the winter, only to release them once the new growth starts. Without the leaves, even with the sun arcing low in the Southern sky, the garden glows in the light. At least on the days when clouds don’t get in between us and the sun.

A climbing hydrangea, its leaves brilliant yellow, stands like a small sun against the fence. Virginia creeper on the fence and side of the house always fades to a delicious pale pinky yellow with bright red stems. Crunchy leaves under foot mark one of passages of the autumn symphony.

Past mid-November in Chicago, the autumnal symphony is in its final movement. With deep gratitude and appreciation, I say Mahalo to all that has unfolded so that this particular humble little garden Shangri-La is now passing its grace through my life.