We have a huge tulip tree in our backyard, not far from where I journal each morning.  We’d planted it when we first bought the house, the kids were small and I could reach the top of the tree.

My oldest is going to college next year.

For months its leaves were lush and green and full of life; then one day when I looked up from my scribbling and sketching they were suddenly all brown.

I know this is not how it really happened.  I’m sure I just didn’t notice it, being busy as we all are.

A few weeks back it began dropping leaves. Just a few at first, then it seemed to pick up its pace until one morning, I could easily see the skeleton of its branches through the sparse hangers-on.

Everything that influences and conditions us in this modern world would have us believe that that is an anomaly. That one day the tree would be fully-leaved and the next, completely bare. That seasons change on a dime.

Life does not work that way. Change is constant. Change is gradual. That is life.

From our smartphones and screens we are led to believe that this is wrong. There must be a ‘hack’ for this. Things – you – must change quickly. You must keep up. Buy this, it’ll help. Believe this; it will be your guide.

Believing that change should occur that way brings perpetual money for them, and perpetual pain for you.

As is often the case in these tumultuous times, an obvious clear truth has become obfuscated for the sake of demanding your attention and inflating their profit: the quick fix is always a lie.

Nature does not work that way. Nature is in it for the long haul. Nature is wiser. When we try to change in an instant, we are going against nature.

So, of course, we fail.

And feel worse about ourselves. And thus continue to search out the promise of a speedy, effortless, and pre-packaged solution. This is the path of pain. It is important to remember that we choose our path not once, but constantly. Even after we set out with firm direction and purpose, we should – and inevitably do –  make continual incremental adjustments to our direction and speed. It is important to be mindful of this, for those changes will either be yours or those of circumstance.

Should you wish to walk the path of peace, look to nature. You are a part of it.

Had I been more mindful, I would have recognized that leaves on my tulip tree had slowly been changing from green to yellow for months.

Understanding the truth of that is comforting. I’ve been working toward my own goals for longer than I’d expected at the start; nothing of lasting value is instantaneous.

Gradual is a concept we all need to not only accept, but actively embrace.

“But”, you say, “What about Springtime? A whole treefull of new leaves pops up all overnight.”

True, they do seem to. But that is appearance, which should not be confused with reality. Sometimes the buds are just too small to notice.

The apparently sudden new growth of Spring is simply an outward manifestation of gradual changes happening on the inside.

When the tree appears dormant, it is not dead.

The leaves my tulip tree shed were not blown off by some sudden wind. They’d weathered strong storms in the summer while they were growing. But when that season was over, changes began inside the tree to call it to rest in preparation for new future growth.

The important change did not happen when I saw the brittle leaves fall; the important changes had already happened. What I noticed at the very end was simply an outward expression of this.

Change is constant. Change is gradual. Change is not always immediately apparent. Change is a long-term game.

That is the nature of Nature, of which we are all a part.

You do not always see the changes that are happening all around you, at all times, until they are ready.

But because you do not see them does not mean they are not there.

Once you realize the truth of that, you will discover that you’re doing okay, and actually making progress.

Once you embrace this, you are free to stop your frantic search.

The answers are not without, but within.

They are the ones from which all new growth eventually comes.

It is important to accept this.