’Tis the season for change—from iced teas to hot chocolate, from breezy shirts to scarves, from lazy afternoons under the sun to cozy evenings under the blankets. We aren’t the only creatures to alter our habits. One look out the window reveals the transition from bright, blue skies to gray, overcast clouds. Tiny chirping birds, vigorously singing their songs, are replaced by the large and silent migrants making their way south. And the trees, once verdant and green, change their wardrobes to spectacles of golds and reds.
As the weather cools, comfort is a little harder to come by. Less sun means less photosynthesis; less photosynthesis means less energy to stretch towards the light. It is time to prepare for the long winter ahead.
For most trees, this is the time to shed their leaves. For most leaves, this is the time for a new adventure. This journey will be a short but glorious one.
To prepare, the leaves shed the uniforms they were raised with. Greens are discarded in favor of shimmering golds and bright oranges. The flamboyant ones embellish themselves with dazzling reds. Rich, warm browns are adorned for a touch of maturity and classiness—and to mimic the wise trees who raised them. Look at us, the leaves say. We are grown, we are ready to be individuals, we are worthy of your attention.
And so, one by one, they say their goodbyes to their wise caretakers and make their departures. Silently they greet the cooling winds and meet the friendly autumn rains. They are pulled along on the eddies and swirls and gracefully drift into the unknown.
Some travel but a short distance. Others travel further. Some journeys are one simple, short leg. Others are full of hops and skips, of curiously exploring one destination before moving on to the next stop.
Each beautiful wardrobe, once a source of immense pride, becomes a little less glorious with each passing moment. A little fading here, some scuffing there, a small tear in the fabric, a new mottling of browns and cool grays. But these are no sources of shame. Instead, they are marks of pride. Those are the souvenirs of the journey, badges that tell the story of where each leaf has been and what each leaf has experienced.
Eventually they grow tired. The winds and rains understand. Another farewell, and the leaves are deposited gently on the earth below. They greet their new neighbors, brethren who lived similar journeys and have their own stories to tell, many who have also found their final resting place. Together they reminisce about their adventures. They swap stories, sometimes boasting, other times wistful.
As their stories fade into whispers, as the voices grow quieter and smaller in number, the leaves surround themselves in the warmth of their memories. Each leaf becomes but a ghost, thinking fondly of the next year’s leaves, those who will make the same journey.