There was that crisp feeling in the air, the one that’s immediately associated with fall. It was finally here, after months of sweating in stifling apartments without central air conditioning, with their high electric bills. And while I have been looking forward to cider and bundling up on those chilly mornings, the season brought something else: New England foliage.
Honestly, there’s nothing like it anywhere else. To me, I could probably spend fall somewhere else, but it wouldn’t be the same. And despite the fact I’ve lived in New England my entire life, every year has its differences. Some years, the foliage creeps in, and you sort of notice it after the fact, or as little patches of color on your drive to work. Other times, there’s an explosion of color all at once, and you’re surrounded by a whole new level of vibrancy.
Though for me, whenever I think of fall, one particular tree comes to mind. I’d wait for it to change every year, as I came home from school, or backed out of the driveway on my way to fencing. And no, I wouldn’t necessarily be staring at the leaves waiting for them to change, but once they turned indescribable shades of red and orange—almost a fluorescent level—I could spend time sitting on my front steps, the blue fall sky overhead and this incredible tree in front of me.
Even though I no longer live in that home and my parents have moved away, I still think about that tree. And how fall is an almost too-convenient metaphor for change. It’s especially prevalent since the season includes my birthday, which prompts even more reflection. Just like the trees, I’ve spent a whole year changing and shaping myself, and setting myself up for the next 12 months.
I grow in a variety of ways: reading new books, meeting new people, traveling new places, and developing new (and hopefully better) habits. And just like fall, there’s also a fair amount of shedding: flings and romances, stuff in my closets, memories that I don’t really want to think about, and less-than-ideal jobs.
When I was younger, when the big maple tree across the street changed colors, it meant opportunity, but in a different way. A new school year, fresh supplies, and more chats at the bus stop with the neighborhood kids. And maybe witnessing our neighbor throw a rock at an empty hornet’s nest in the tree. Plus, each new year brought new knowledge and a chance to try this whole “being a person” thing.
Fall, the changing leaves, and the variety of foliage shows us more than the concept of change. They demonstrate that change happens whether we’re paying attention or not. Some things do stay the same (because apple picking and cider are always excellent), but that sometimes it’s okay to shed parts of the past and plant new parts of yourself.
It’s important to know staring at the leaves doesn’t automatically make them change, in the same way that we don’t change overnight or without effort. It’s part of a process that builds all year, and only then do you start to see the rewards appear. Then several months later, you can look back and see what you’ve done.
And of course, no matter the season, there’s always time for cider doughnuts.