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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Facing the Fall of Change

Written by Kath, a mom without a blog

It’s fall across most of our country. The long, warm days of summer have given rise to brisk mornings and evenings; the sun is lower in the sky, and days are shorter. It’s fall out here in the desert as well, but the signs aren’t as obvious. You really have to look for them.

Fall in Phoenix means we open our windows again. Of course, this only happens in the early morning and late evening hours when the temps dip to the 70s or so. But still…we OPEN our WINDOWS. We haven’t done this since, seriously, May. Watching my curtains sway a little in the morning breeze is a little bit of heaven for me.

We don’t have the usual “look” of fall here, either. Our trees (for the most part) don’t turn color and drop their leaves. Oh, sure, a few do. They are scattered among the masses of desert trees (mesquites and palo verdes) and palm trees which pretty much stay green year-round. So the minority of trees that do change get sort of lost in the greenery.

I feel sorry that my kids don’t get to experience the traditional fall. My 5-year old daughter has only seen fall leaves in picture books or Charlie Brown specials. So last weekend, my husband and I packed up our three kids into our SUV and headed north for the weekend.

The usual noise and chatter of conversation and DVDs playing became a hush as we hit the dirt road and started the climb up the mountain. We rolled down our windows and breathed deeply the clean, crisp mountain air. And then, my kids began to see them. Small clusters of yellow and orange at first. But then we saw the maples. Oh, those glorious maples in their pinks, reds, oranges, fuchsias, rusts….so absolutely, breathtakingly beautiful. I turned around and watched my kids’ eyes soaking up the sights. Their “oohs” and “aahhs”, their squeals of delight…it was quite a moment.

We got settled in to our destination and went for a walk. Approaching the first oak tree, my daughter picked up an acorn off the ground.

“What’s this, Mama?”

“That’s an acorn, honey.”

Pause. Turning and examining the acorn in her little hand. “Like the one from Ice Age?”

“Yep, just like it.” Note to self….make this trip EVERY year with the kids.

There was just something so beautiful and comforting in the magnificence of pure nature. The colors were so vibrant. It’s an extraordinary sight to behold, but the trees were just doing what they were SUPPOSED to do—they were changing.

When we returned to Phoenix, I was telling a friend about the beautiful sights up north. Her reply stunned me a bit.

“Oh, I lived on the east coast and HATED fall,” she said. “The leaves changing color always made me depressed and anxious, knowing that the trees would soon be totally bare and that winter would set in.”

Wow. That thought had literally never occurred to me. I guess since I’ve lived in the desert most of my life, I didn’t realize that fall for some people (who live in areas where the winters are brutal) would be so anxiety-provoking.

It reminds me of a time in my life when I saw that things were “changing.” When I anticipated what would come with dread, fear, and anxiety. I know what that feeling is like. It’s scary. The unknown always is.

I’m currently in one of those moments again in my life. The subtle colors are there signaling a change that I know deep down is coming. It makes me frightened of the “barren tree.” I don’t want to think about it.

But here’s the deal. If I spend my days focusing only on the bare tree, I’ll miss the beauty of the fall. I won’t see the rich golds, bright reds, and deep browns. I might miss the very best part of all because I can’t stop thinking about what’s to come.

So, today, I will enjoy the fall. I will soak up the hues and try to imprint the images in my brain, so that I may NEVER forget.

Because when the leaves fall, it’s true the tree becomes bare. But what happens next is that the leaves break down and nourish the tree; for when spring comes, new buds will appear. And the hope of those new leaves…leaves that have been fed by the ones that came before, comforts me.


  1. Wow Kath, incredible post. Truly incredible. That was beautiful. Thank you.

    I'm going to be thinking about your post all day while trying hard to notice "the leaves" and imprint their beauty in my mind and in my heart.

    You are really such an amazing writer.

  2. ah, kath. what a poignant reminder to pay attention to our lives, regardless of where we are, or where we may have been, or even where we are going. there is beauty in change; and hope, even in the winter.

    thanks for this magical post. you managed to make me pause and spend some time just looking out the window at all the colorful change happening around me. not thinking about the raking and leaf-blowing that will need to be done. here and now... that is what i am going to think about. at least until the kids get home and i get swept away in the chaos and the worry. why can't i ever retain these important life lessons?

  3. this was such a beautiful post.

  4. what a refreshing way of looking at things!

    I grew up in Boston - and dreaded winter. THen I moved to Florida and sweated all winter. Now I live in California, and while we have a slight change of seasons, I love that we are just a short drive from snow, beach, and foliage.

  5. Wow Kath - that was brilliant!! I too think it's odd to dread Fall - it's my absolute favorite season. But that's probably because in north Texas, winter lasts about 6 weeks.

    I just did a post on this earlier in the week about how, after close to 25 years here in Texas, we are finally having a true Fall - leaves changing and everything. I'm loving it. Thanks for reminding me to cherish every little nip in the air.

    And the acorn observation - awesome. Good for you for making the journey. May your coming "winter" be a mild one :-)

  6. so i meant it kath, when i said you inspired me to take time to enjoy my falling leaves. here's a little (short) clip of the view from my porch.

    let's hope this works!

  7. Man, you were in my head today. I have been struggling to enjoy fall. While the leaves are beautiful here in OH, the days are already becoming mostly grey and damp. Cold, cold weather is just around the corner and I hate that (unless it snows, which doesn't happen much - just wet and cold). I decided today the next sunny day I was going to go out and take some pictures of the beautiful colors. Now if we can just get some sun before the leaves are completely off the trees!

  8. I just don't love it. I love your post, but I don't love fall. Maybe becuase it is followed by winter which means I'll be up to my eyeballs in cold!

  9. Thanks for sharing how magical it was to take your kids to witness "fall" - I felt like I was there with you, Kath, breathing it all in.

    And thanks for the reminder to take notice of this colorful change - it can be so fleeting sometimes. I can look out my window and see green and then it seems like the next day I'll see BRIGHT yellow - everywhere - whoa! when did that happen? I need to stop myself and really look at all of the bushes and trees in our backyard and celebrate the riot of colors changing daily! My backyard isn't near as jaw-droppingly gorgeous as Deb's (nice video by the way, Deb), but we have some decent variety. So, I should appreciate it more because it is right here, especially with friends like you who have to DRIVE to it! :)

    I was dreading winter as well here in Utah until yesterday when the two inches of snow on my lawn started 3 yr old said, "oh no, mommy, it's going away, the snow is going away!" She was truly devasted. I was happy to be able to tell her we have alot of snow still coming. She said (while running through the house, pumping her arms up into the air), "It's coming back?!?!? YAY! IT'S COMING BACK!" How can I rue the changes that bring such happiness?

  10. Growing up in Phoenix, fall was always my favorite season. The weather finally started to be bearable AND it was the harbringer of all the best holidays (Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and my birthday). When I lived in the Northwest, there came a point when I started to wonder: "huh, why is fall my favorite season again? It's mostly grey and dark early and cold and unpleasant." Then I moved back here and am really appreciating fall again. My husband says fall in Phoenix is really the same as spring in colder climates.

  11. Beautiful post!!! I love what the fall leaves symbolize, and am totally spoiled by their beauty every year. I want them to last and last...perhaps to skip the barren tree part, or just because they are comfort to me.

    Love your imagery.

  12. Beautiful. This reminds me of a gorgeous children's picture book called Fletcher and the Falling Leaves. It is worth picking up for sure. (Hint: Even that barren tree can wind up being breath-takingly beautiful.)

    Best to you as you try to stay in the moment, appreciating the beauty of moment; keeping the dread and anxiety at bay.

  13. Perfect metaphor. If you lean towards anxiety any kind of change is hard to accept with open arms.

    What a fun day for your family. I love your colorful descriptions.


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