Last weekend, we went on our annual drive and camping trip to see the fall colors of Colorado. The transition of aspen leaves is a glorious moment in time and space. For a fleeting instance we tip-toe through the woods, mindful of what seasons and cycles and changes really mean. We become aware of how impermanent we always are as the fall colors transform from their darkest green to a lime green, drift slowly into the golden yellow that lights up the entire forest and contrasts with the evergreens, and then sometimes touch a deep red-brown for just a breath before falling.
We finally see the spectrum of change and understand that change is not as instantaneous as we once thought. We recognize that even as the last leaf drops, the tree remains in transition, soaking in nutrients and energy for the long winter ahead, preparing for the spring’s sprouts and sprigets. We see the falling leaf as the child to leaves of last year, and given moisture and sunlight and micro-bio organisms and the profound process of composting, as an ancestor to the future leaves that will also dance across this spectrum.
Often, we talk about seasons as cyclical, but when we return to fall again next year, things are not exactly the same as they once were, they have evolved. They might revisit a familiar time and temperature and process, but like us, things have changed. For example, when we return to a place we visited some time ago, maybe a childhood home, our perspective has changed, it means something different to us now than when we were ten.
But we are not completely transformed from that younger self either. We are what was and what is, the beautiful gallery of a palimpsest: an image on top of an image, layered, not the same painting nor a separate painting. Dark green, lime green, yellow, burnt orange, red-brown, fallen, new green, all together. We continue.
And maybe let me say this simpler: go for a walk beneath this natural triumph, this stunning moment, the forest ablaze in color . . . and then go for another walk tomorrow.