Trees in Autumn: A Seasonal Display of Splendor and Sadness
Nature's Last Burst of Color Before the Leaves Disappear
Autumn Leaves Remind Us that Even the Most Brilliant Life is Short
As I walk the streets of my neighborhood and visit various vineyards on this late November day, the signs of autumn are everywhere. The trees sport leaves in shades of red, gold, and, finally, brown, and they can be seen floating softly to the ground, carried by a gentle breeze, a cold wind, or pounding rain. As the trees begin to look more like skeletons of their former selves, the ground acquires a new carpet in red, yellow, and brown.
In autumn, we humans often reflect on the brevity of life, as we watch the leaves, once so splendid, lose their color and fade on the ground, only to be raked away for the compost pile or the trash. We see the bare trees and realize that each of us loses some of our abilities as we come close to the end of our lives. So even as we witness the splendid colors of autumn, we can be filled with melancholy knowing that winter is quickly approaching.
In Autumn, the Leaves Have One Last Fling of Color before They Fall and Die
The Contrast between Splendor and Sorrow
An Autumn Walk in Paso Robles, California
As I walked through my Riverbank neighborhood in Paso Robles this morning, there was gorgeous color on every street. But right next to the splendid trees were the sad ones, like this sycamore (platanus occidentalis) that lives next door to me. It has lost almost all its leaves and they are blowing all over the neighborhood. The tree to its right is bronze with fall color, but soon it will be not better off than its sycamore cousin.
At the entrance to the tract, this sweetgum tree has lost about half of its reddish leaves, and they are piled right underneath it. Behind it, though, sits a tree still almost green, with growing tinges of red. One is in sorry shape, the other still splendid. I believe this one is an Autumn Blaze Ornamental Pear. If I'm wrong, feel free to correct me in the comments. It wasn't in any of my field guides, and I tried to track it down on line.
I was standing under this tree in the video below as the wind began to blow the leaves away and I could hear them flutter in the wind. I decided to share the words to an old children's song of the 1880's in the first part of this video to introduce it until the wind picked up again.
Listen to the Falling Leaves as They Dance Away with the Wind
Changes in a Single Tree
I have used as my example the golden rain tree (seen as both two words and compound word), since I happened to photograph it before its leaves started changing color. I have found it interesting that although the pods (or fruit with the seeds) were already present in mid-October, they were a lovely rust color that were complemented by the green of the leaves. As the leaves began to yellow and get ready to fall off, the pods also became darker, and contrasted perfectly with the yellow leaves.
Goldenrain Tree in Mid-October
Is Anything So Sad as a Bare Tree?
Leaf Color Slowly Fades Before It's Gone
Autumn Splendor on the RoadsClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Splendor of Autumn is Transient
The trees in North San Luis Obispo County do not put on the same show that people on the East Coast take for granted, but as you drive the streets in the north county, there is plenty of color this autumn. It's not limited to parks and forests, but the streets seem to have been planned to include autumn color. I do not remember seeing this in Los Angeles, or even Ventura County when I lived there.
It would be easy to take our street show for granted, too, if it weren't almost everywhere we look. As I drive to my errands each day, I marvel at the characteristics of each tree -- whether I know it's name or not. The oaks remain a deep green even as their leaves float away, but they are often right in the midst of flaming vineyards that show all the colors to best advantage. The sweetgum trees look a bit like Christmas trees that need no lights to glow. The ornamental pears and purple leaf plum trees add deeper hues of red and purple. And, scattered in yards among them are the colorful red and green cottoneaster shrubs, with their bright berries, reminding us that Christmas is just around the corner.
The Sadness at the Brevity of Beauty
As we see the stunning colors fade when leaves fall, die, and turn brown, so we, too, begin to see our physical beauty fade in the autumn of life. Hair may thin, wrinkles appear, skin gets thinner and drier, pounds take longer to come off, and we often don't like what we see in the mirror anymore. It is the season of life when the beauty within becomes more important than external beauty.
When the oak below was covered with leaves in the spring and summer, the support system of the tree which held it erect and supplied its nutrients was not visible. It is only visible when all the leafy veneer is gone and only the heart of the tree is left. Surviving storms through its life formed the gnarled branches which give it character and now add to its mature beauty.
Autumn is the season when our fruit becomes more apparent and our neighbors and families can see it. What shows are our attitudes and character. It may also be a lonely season when our mates and friends may have already left this earth, and we may walk alone, except for God.
As a Christian, I hope that this season continues to develop the fruit of the Spirit that I should be bearing, so that it will begin to be visible to those I interact with. That will happen if I walk with God and abide in Christ so that I am more rooted in him day by day.
"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control...." Galatians 5:22
Strength is Revealed when External Beauty Is Gone
© 2011 Barbara Radisavljevic