“You only grow by coming to the end of

something and by beginning something else.”

-John Irving, The World According to Garp

In autumn, we are reminded of beginnings and endings. An end to warm summer days and long summer evenings and the beginning of cool autumn evenings. An end to summer vacation and the beginning of the school year.

It’s the last hurrah of flowers, trees and plants before they shed their blooms and leaves, the end of the busy tourist season and the beginning of the more restful season.

But it’s OK. The only way we may begin something new is by something ending. Yet, for many of us, endings are difficult no matter what they are. We carry emotion with us that makes it difficult to let go and move on. As managing director of Peninsula Players in Fish Creek, I know I approach the end of the season with both excitement and sadness knowing that I will say goodbye to our company members and retreat back into my office of one. But when I pause and accept the change, I relish all that is now available to me in the less chaotic season.

One change I am not yet prepared for is the departure of my youngest son, Spencer, to college at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. I’ve known this day has been coming for a long time, but it makes it no less easier to stomach. I am beyond excited for him to begin the next chapter of his life and to watch him grow into the man he is to become…but it still fills me with sadness.

The passing of time has never felt more present than now, as I come to terms with my own aging and the aging of my children, spouse, family and friends. This ending and beginning is particularly challenging, but I know it is necessary and will ultimately provide great joy in the end.

Nature is filled with these beginnings and endings, too.

However, an ending for our flower and vegetable gardens is also a beginning if we plan accordingly. In autumn, we trim back our garden, remove unwanted plants and begin the process of planting new bulbs in our flowerbeds and yard. We also take this time to clear one of our vegetable beds and prepare it for the planting of garlic. Both flower bulbs and garlic, which are planted in autumn, promise a spring/summer filled with both visual beauty of savory deliciousness.

Many trees also do well if planted in autumn. This allows the sapling to focus on laying roots, versus producing leaves. Additionally, the cooler weather also helps this new tree to weather the growing stage necessary to effectively “take root” in its new home.

As I think about the trees taking root, I am drawn back to my son who will, himself, be taking root in a new home this early autumn clear across the state. I worry about his comfort, the newness of everything and all that comes with your youngest leaving the nest. But, as we plan for our new plants/trees in autumn, I am also planning for the “comforts from home” that I may provide my son so he has a taste of the familiar as he begins his post-secondary journey.

When I look back to my freshman year at Marquette University 33 years ago (gasp…that was hard to write!) I remember my transition to dorm life was both exciting and intimidating. I had brought sheets, pillows and a comforter from home along with my stereo, black-and-white TV, a Betamax (yes, a Betamax) and clothes. I was fortunate in that my roommates both first and second semester were friends from high school. That certainly made the transition easier.

So as I look back to my own experience, I know it is important to provide the departing son with some items from ones home to remedy any homesick feelings that could surface. We will supplement those items with new items we may introduce for his new beginning of dorm life—a futon sofa, soft sheets, a comfortable pillow and blanket to start. I’m sure Spencer has a list of the things he would like to bring as well. (Believe it or not, over the last few months, he and his roommate have been making a list of items and divvying them up so that they do not double up on room furnishings. )

It is truly amazing what the Internet and social media has done to bring future classmates and roommates together prior to their arrival on campus. When I arrived at Marquette, my classmates and I were only given a book with each other’s photo, name and dorm residence. That was the extent of introductions outside of orientation.

In comparison, Spencer has been communicating for months with his new classmates and has developed new friendships and coordinated dorm choices based on this online meeting. Incredible. We look forward to sending care packages filled with Door County apples, baked goods with dried Door County cherries and other requests yet to be made, for creature comforts from home.

Growing up in Door County is a privilege we are not quite aware of until we leave.

I remember the first time I came home after starting college. I saw the county with fresh eyes and began to appreciate the beauty I took for granted my first 18 years. When I was in high school, all my classmates and I all wanted to graduate and to get out. But each year that passed, the pull of home became greater and greater for me.

At age 36, the pull became so strong that I returned. It is my hope that Spencer will have the same epiphany I did…there truly is no place like home, especially if home is Door County.

I know he will need to grow wings first, learn to fly and then soar for years before that pull will even begin to tug on him. My soaring took me all over the U.S. for business before I landed in Europe for five plus years. I am excited to see where he will soar because I look forward to visiting and beginning new traditions.

So as autumn begins to spread across the county, remember the passing of summer is but an end that results in new beginnings down the road. If you have children still at home, enjoy the time you have and make the most of it. Trust me…it goes faster than you thought it would (you’ve heard that before, I’m sure.)

Also, trust me on this, too—buy some bulbs, garlic and/or saplings and plant new life this autumn so that you may look forward to the new beginning you’ll see when winter’s grip loosens in a few months and life begins to blossom again.

Celebrate the endings in our lives…for there are beginnings yet to come.

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