Saturday afternoon. Fall leaves are turning color. It’s sunny. The subtle warning comes that time is limited for clearing out everything I don’t want to share my house with for the long winter ahead.

It’s enough motivation. I take the personal papers in the “shred” bin of our home office and it’s time to light ’em up. We could use the shredder, but what fun is that? Fires just feel like fall to me, so we get out the fire pit and go for it.

As my kids help me, I look for ways to teach life lessons in our time together. My son comments “Too bad we don’t just recycle these papers”. After praising his sense of environmental consciousness, I explain that what we’re doing IS a type of recycling. Trees become paper, we burn the paper to ash, we can add ash to the soil and it improves it, then new plants (and trees) can grow, from which we can make more paper, etc. He understands it’s like the water cycle and so it sinks in.

After they’ve lost interest in the burn pile and wandered away, I’m left to watch the fire and ponder my thoughts. We’ve been cleaning out the garage and getting rid of old records from previous businesses and tax records we no longer need to keep. As I watch one particular paper catch fire, I see that it’s from a somewhat painful venture from years prior. I laugh to myself that not everything can be recycled. Some things you just have to live out.

But wait, a new thought comes to me just as quickly. As the old, paper remnants of past challenges consume themselves in the fire, I realize that all the lessons of that experience are still with me. They nourish the “soil” of my mind that future adventures will grow in. They’ll help create new, more beautiful future results.

Here is the process: difficult experience is painful, the hard part of it becomes the lesson learned (if we are open to it), in time the challenge dissipates, the lesson remains, and free from the cumbersome environment of the difficult experience, we are able to grow taller again – fed by all the growth of the experience. What a beautiful process of recycling that goes on in life as well.

I find that many parallels in the in the physical world have lessons for us in the mental or spiritual realm. My wish for you is to see the lessons available for you in your own world as well. May your past “fertililzer” enrich your future!

Jenn Gibbs