For the past ten months, I've talked to the trees on my way to work. There's a street lined street where I notice it the most. In January, the trees were mostly bare (though there were still some leaves hanging on as we don't get a proper winter, or seasons for that matter). It was the first time I had really noticed the trees in detail, even though I had been taking the same route to work for almost a year. As the months progressed, and the temperatures rose, I began to keep track of the trees' progress. The green leaves began to blossom around March. The branches grew more lush and open. My mind would drift during the summer months as the daily podcast filled my ears and I remarked on how people out here don't know how a four way stop works. I'd have the same conversations with myself most mornings, often times forgetting about the trees entirely. Seeing them, yes, but not remarking on their brilliance. I eagerly await the leaves to change every year from green to yellow, red, orange to brown to no leaves at all. There's something I love about watching the trees change: the one reminder out here beside my calendar and birthdays that time is in fact progressing, even if the weather remains the same.
Have you ever stopped to think about all the ways trees are rather remarkable. They provide food, shade, aid our environment by providing oxygen and taking away carbon dioxide; they survive the harsh months year round, and yet people are willing to destroy entire forests that have existed long before them for a multitude of reasons. Taking for granted the usefulness and beauty of the nature that stands on the street corners around us. Growing up, my house didn't have the lush trees of our neighbors. Our trees weren't designed for reading beneath or climbing or raking piles of its leaves for jumping. We had aspens that would turn yellow and housed yellow-jackets, and a lone pine tree that eventually grew taller than the house and made putting holiday lights on it impossible. But I loved watching their transformation. The softness of the new pine needles in the spring, and the way the aspen branches looked against the winter sky. There was something so beautiful about their design and colors that has stuck with me because now I stop to admire a good tree when I pass or sit for a moment longer beneath it's foliage or take endless pictures of its branches against the sky. Trees are a topic I return to again and again in all aspects of my work. Just as the need to escape into the forest and away from the city is a need that continuously resurfaces in unexpected moments.
Today, driving down my usual route, there were leaves on the ground. Leaves I hadn't noticed before. The street was a little more brown than green, off set by the grey cloudy sky overhead. As I drove further down the street, in front of the oldest house on the block which looks like a haunted cottage someone transplanted in the middle of the city, stood a large tree that was started to transform into a beautiful red hue. To other cities around the world the emergence of autumn is nothing to remark upon. It happens every year like clockwork: the air grows cold, the jackets emerge, and the leaves change. It marks the upcoming academic year and bags full of new school supplies (definitely one of my favorite parts). It happens and it moves on, signifying the imminent approach of winter, which many people despise. I have always looked forward to fall. It was originally due to my birthday being in October, and over the years it's morphed into more than that. A desire to be in a season that matches the person I've become and clothes that make me feel like me and the colder temperatures and apples and fresh bouquets of pencils.
There are few things I don't like about this season. However, now that I live in a desert, where the seasons rarely change and the only time something like fall appears is for a couple weeks in November before the rain comes, I find myself wishing for the days of colder weather. This is the time of year I wait for all year. Yet I also find myself longing for this season somewhere else. Longing for a period where I live in a climate where summer doesn't reach it's hands into October. It has become something of a myth in my life recently. A thing I know exists and have experienced, a feeling that has pros and cons just like every other period of life, but has since morphed into something of mythical appeal where the actual reality may not hold the imagined world I've since created. (I don't believe that to be entirely true, but with every situation where projections and expectations are at the forefront, realistic thoughts must sneak in to ground everything.) The trees' journey through the seasons makes me think of my own journey this year. The year seems to start anew in September just as the trees begin to lose their leaves and prepare for winter. Just as I begin to settle into my new skin, another year old, full of wishes for the upcoming year and hopes.
A single red leaf met me as I pulled into the parking structure this morning. A leaf at the very top of three plumy trees that are planted in a sea of concrete: a small glimmer of what's to come, and the possibility of what can be.