Written by Lee Hoedl; LAKESTYLE magazine - Fall 2006 Issue

Once again the planet Earth reaches the point of its revolution around the Sun where the deceptive season of autumn gracefully emerges; the season often perceived as bringing about the complacent resignation of Nature. It is the season that is often labeled as “the season of decline.” And yet, the irony rests in the mesmerizing reflective nature of this particular season; it is anything but complacent. Rather than allowing Nature to quietly resign itself to a long period of dormancy, autumn comes alive with its own sense of activity, of questioning… of magic. It is in this particular season when questions, hypotheses and soul searching reach their peak around a crisp autumn fire. Listen closely and one can hear the inquisitive nature of youth: Why does a rainbow have the same colors, in the same order, each time? Where does wind come from? What creates daydreams in our mind? Is Santa Claus real? How come we don’t get goose bumps more often? Why does laughter feel so good? How can everything smell different from everything else and how do we know that? What does love really feel like? Why do marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate taste so good when prepared over an open fire? And, of course, the age-old questions of the autumn season: Why and how are the days getting “shorter?” What really makes the leaves change different colors and fall off the trees? And maybe, just maybe, if we listen carefully, we will hear the echoes of our own childhood grace and innocence through our own child’s inquiries.

It is this season of autumn that not only brings on childlike reflection but it also ushers in a solemn and reflective silence; a matured silence upon which our own questions are posed. Our questions concerning the grandeur of Life’s journey, as well as doubt and pain surrounding Life’s misfortunes. Our questions steeped in our personal inadequacies and helplessness against the process of Life unfolding. And our questions teeming with fascination, wonder and hope as we step waist-high into Life’s current again and again.

It is in this season, wrapped within this childlike reflection and layered among the matured silence, that we are graciously reminded once again of

the magic in the mystery

In 1986, a revised edition of The Big Book of Tell Me Why was published in an attempt to assist adults in answering the puzzling and perennial questions posed by children, such as: How are crayons made? What are freckles? What makes up a raindrop? What makes mirrors work? What happened to the dinosaurs? For each question posed within the book, there appears to be a relatively simple and straight-forward answer, if the individual would have only had the time in the first place to research each specific question. But the research is mute, as the book provides the answer that elevates every adult and parent to genius status in the eyes of their young ones. This particular 1986 edition was a compilation of three volumes in one book! So even though my son was only three years old at the time of my discovery of this book, it was a hard cover I had to have in my possession. I would be ready for the day when my child would pose that first inquisitive why. And that first why came during a lazy early autumn afternoon...

“Daddy, what makes clouds like those in the sky?”

It was a perfect child’s question and one that was within the realm of this book’s focus. I quickly rambled off a short soliloquy of the initial development of a cloud, much to my satisfaction.

“But Daddy, what makes the clouds look like animals in the sky?”

This was not a question I was prepared for nor was it a subject addressed by the book. I nervously searched my collective thoughts as to an immediate explanation: Atmospheric pressure? High and low pressure systems intermingling? Jet stream interference? Nothing satisfactory came to me. So, while sitting in the early autumn grass with my son staring at the clouds, I answered honestly, “I really don’t know, Leo. I guess Life just makes the clouds that way.”

Pleased, Leo smiled and replied, “Yep, that’s right, Daddy.”

For most elements and phenomena within this Life, there is a definitive or conjectured physical explanation and there is a drive within us to seek out that explanation. The laws of physics and science have been explored, tested and retested and they seem to hold fast in our physical world. Research continues to be conducted in vast amounts across innumerable areas of our world and cosmos; the overwhelming majority of it focused on the how of our life. And yet, regardless of the human scientific explanation, there is and will always be a guaranteed element of what I have come to refer to as the glorious “magic in the mystery.”

The “magic in the mystery” is that question just beyond the initial how. It is that moment when we go beyond exploring the basic functioning of Life and head directly into the why of that Life. Why do the initial cells suddenly explode at the subatomic level and begin to divide into the beginning cells and membranes of human life? Why does our own galaxy continue to rotate in the fashion it does so as to annually create the seasons? Why does the very origin of a small breeze in our backyard ultimately affect the weather over a distant continent? Why does light bend through rain drops to produce such a uniform and magnificent rainbow every time? And what suddenly ignites that spark that blossoms into an unexplainable and lifelong love between two very different souls? It’s that place where scientific analysis ends and childlike fascination begins. It’s the magic in the mystery, my friend.

No matter how much we are able to dissect a phenomenon or process (natural or human-created) to the most basic understanding of its how, there will always remain a certain element of mystery and wonder in its why. I have heard of this why defined as a spiritual connectedness; Life’s unrelenting will and desire to continue on. I have also heard this mystery referred to as the "God element" found in all things and processes. As it has been explained to me, one can break any matter down to its most fundamental composition and its smallest particle, and there will still remain one vibrant sub-element within that particle and composition - the God element – that sustains Life.

Regardless of how the why is defined, we have all experienced its breathtaking magic. We have held the hand of a loved one and have wondered, “How could I be so lucky to have this person in my life?” We have all witnessed a glorious natural landscape and have marveled, “It so beautiful that a photograph will never do it justice.” And we have viewed images in person and via television that have touched our heart and brought tears to our eyes and we’ve lamented, “I wish there was more I could do.” What could possibly cause this connection with one another and with Life itself? The magic in the mystery.

What causes a disease to seemingly avoid one person, while ravaging the body of another? Why would a person’s physical existence come to an abrupt end at the very prime of their life? Why would an entire continent of human beings sit on the brink of starvation while others only 1000 miles away feast in abundance? They are powerful questions to ask and within them lay the magic in the mystery as well, my friend. The mystery of our life is often answered in the “how” of many questions. It is easy to explain how a cloud forms, but it is much more difficult to explain why the cloud makes such wonderful shapes and animals. It is far easier to explain how a person’s life ceases than it is to fully grasp why this must occur. For magic to be powerful, it must leave us to wonder and to ponder and to question not only the glorious whys, but the painful whys of our life as well. It is this magic that forces us to further define and crystallize ourselves and what is most important to us. It is this magic, beyond scientific analysis, that forces us to struggle and grow; to open ourselves up to the possibilities and opportunities that are silently unfolding before us. As unsettling as this magic may be, it is also part of the magic in the mystery.

Autumn is often misinterpreted, as are particular moments in our life, as the end: the end of growth, development and advancement. From our perspective, the leaves have turned and fallen; the harshness of winter lies just around the corner. From our perspective as well, circumstances in our life may have turned and our choices and chances may have all but dried up, while the harshness of the unknown lies just ahead for us. Perhaps this is why each autumn season witnesses a welling up of that matured silence within each of us. It is in this silence where our why questions have been forming throughout our busied year. And in this silence and autumn calm, we continue to seek answers.

Autumn is that season of unseen activity where Nature is busily preparing itself for the upcoming year of growth. With autumn, trees and plants naturally and chemically sense that cold weather is soon approaching, so it sheds itself of all unnecessary elements. It is Nature’s inherent process of simultaneously protecting itself and preparing itself. At the same time, somehow Nature is also aware that spring is not that far off and is ready to open its buds for another glorious season of growth and beauty. It doesn’t fully understand why this seasonal process occurs, it simply waits and is patient for just the right time and the right season.

When we have been hurt or pained and Life turns cold, we withdraw. It’s just as natural as trees and plants shedding their leaves for the season. But it isn’t meant to end there; there is no room for complacent resignation in our life. A vital part of Life is learning to prepare ourselves to open up and trust again after the hurt has occurred and the loss has been felt. Even through our seasons of pain, doubt and questions, we have to believe that we are assured a new season of spring in the not-so-distant future. We can’t ever simply stop asking why, but we need to be patient through all of our questions and not settle for the first textbook answer to come along. Often times, it’s most likely an answer that is not right for us or those interacting with us. And beyond those initial answers most often lies a time of new opportunity and new growth, within the right time and the right season.

As autumn unfolds its splendid shades and hues, it is nice to be subtly reminded that we are continually called into the mystery of Life so as to explore it, explain it, understand it, utilize it and celebrate it. But we are also called far beyond the mystery of Life, deep into the magic of it all. It’s not enough to simply make sense of it, but we need to accept much of it in all of its unfathomable mystery and simply marvel at it as well. Many questions are not meant to be answered, but simply “lived through.” It’s on the other side of these questions, where the true magic lies.

Perhaps it is true that much of the human journey will never be readily explained away. And perhaps Life just makes it that way. “Yep, that’s right, Daddy.”


Post Note: It should be noted that Arkady Leokum’s book, The Big Book of Tell Me Why, remains one of the quintessential books to have in any parent’s library. It serves not only as a very useful resource to all those wonderful childhood questions, but it also remains a poignant reminder of the magic in the mystery that will forever remain in Life.

Photography by Lee Hoedl

Copyright 2006

Copyright 2006, Lee Hoedl, leehoedl@yahoo.com