Our yardman stopped by the other day to see what we wanted him to do with all the leaves in our yard. Now, on the surface, this is a pretty straightforward question, but my husband and I didn’t have to deal with the problem of leaves the past few years while living in Ecuador. Living near the equator means there is no discernable change in season. Trees there do lose their leaves, just not all at once.
In the states, though, trees put on a show. All of a sudden one day colors you never thought possible from a tree reach out and grab your attention, demand you notice their awesomeness. I have pulled off the road a time or two the past few weeks just to gape and stare. Autumn is my favorite season largely because of this last chromatic hoorah before the gray of winter sets in.
But does anything in life really happen that suddenly?
This is football season, and I love football. Like any other serious spectator, I am willing to watch for hours because I know at some point along the way there is going to be a spectacular, impossible catch. Or an unexpected interception. Or a game-saving fifty-five-yard field goal will be kicked into the wind with two seconds on the clock. These showy attention grabbers happen suddenly, yet the preparation for them has been going on for decades. How many balls has that receiver caught in practice to put himself in the position be able to pull off that toes-in-the-back-corner-of-the-endzone touchdown?
That impressive player spent years gradually honing his skills. Day after day. Coach after coach. Catch after catch. Loss after loss and win after win. Maybe only one in forty or fifty plays will be a dazzling one, and while these plays seem to come out of the blue, the players have prepared themselves over time to be able to ‘step up’ at the appropriate time. Yet, no matter how much players prepare for the big play, they need the help of their teammates to set the stage, to clear a zone, to protect the pocket, to hold the line. A player cannot achieve greatness alone.
Fall leaves, like football players, spend a good deal of their lives preparing for the possibility of glory. Over the season they gradually lose their chlorophyll to make room for the kaleidoscope show, but they still have to have cooperation from the rest of the nature team, mainly temperatures and the correct amount of rainfall, to have the opportunity to show off. The leaves can only boast as much as opportunity allows. They cannot be magnificent all by themselves.
One of my favorite quotes is by Roy D. Chapin, Jr. It goes, “Luck is the time where preparation and opportunity meet.” If we want greatness, we, of course, have to be willing to prepare for it. Study. Work. Learn from mistakes. Learn from defeats. We must do what we can on our end, but we are only part of the equation.
We, ordinary people, are really no different from the great athletes or the leaves. No matter what we do, we can only break through if the conditions are right. So while we prepare ourselves we also need to cultivate relationships and surround ourselves with solid, hardworking, forward thinking individuals and groups who can help us set our stage.
Yes, we must be willing to do everything we can to prepare to reach our goals, but we should never overlook the contributions of others on our path to success, for no one shines alone.
K. Kris Loomis is the author of the humorous travel memoir, Thirty Days In Quito: Two Gringos and a Three-Legged Cat Move to Ecuador. She also writes adult parables and short stories as well as books about yoga and meditation. Kris is a determined chess player, an origami enthusiast, a classically trained pianist, and a playwright. She lives in South Carolina with her husband and two cats.
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