As I write, the leaves outside are changing. Maples are already hued crimson, a vibrant shade the eyes find hard to believe. Birches are melted-pollen yellow, like the light film that coats the handles of your bicycle in early spring. Most of the elms remain green, stubbornly ignoring the crispness in the air and the soon-to-be morning frost. Some already stand bare, erect branches blindly reaching upward, patiently awaiting the snowfall they sense is not far.
It is besides the point that I grew up in New England. Arbitrary that I have spent all but two autumns in the midst of majestically transforming foliage. I am dumbstruck, at a near loss for words. Every. Single. September. It begins with a hushed breeze. You don’t notice it has begun until that first harsh crunch underfoot of a pulverized, browning oak leaf. Then, that chilled wind sends shivers down the spine and a pungent smell of sweet decay through the senses. Leaves scatter and scrape as they are blown across tarmac, tumble foolishly over no-longer-freshly-mown grass. Drops of morning dew become the first sheets of autumn frost, and the vegetable garden yields its final harvest, rich in the auburns of squash and ebony kale. Apple trees put forth great effort, one last push before succumbing to dormancy. Fruit forms lush, abundant reds and greens, nestled away on gnarled branches. A loosely guarded treasure for the casual passerby.
In a few weeks the leaves will be gone, strewn across the landscape like submissive soldiers. The last apples will drop, else be crafted into heirloom recipes to be enjoyed amongst loved ones on chilly nights. Then the snow will come, fleeting, at first. Yet before the last of the pumpkin can be crafted to pies, the snow will linger, ever present. Months pass in silence, steady and still. The deer are thin, squirrels desperately hunting for stores. Life is scarce, the world immobilized. At last, and barely in time, the earth will awaken once more. The vibrant, joyous first days of spring. They bring life, and love, and rosy glow to pale cheeks. The first salad greens and frigid, enthusiastic dips in the river.
It is these times, these beautiful transformations, full of life and change, which we can most learn from. I believe in the earth’s natural transgression, the beauty of seasonal shift. I believe in rejuvenation and life after dormant death. I believe in respecting this change, this natural progression, in learning and embracing it, the beauty of the in-between. For I put faith, wholeheartedly, in the fact that although they fall, next year, the leaves will return. Brighter, more vibrant, than memory can recall.
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