In the natural world change comes in robust physical forms. Snakes shed their skin, butterflies emerge from cocoons and animals put on and then shed off their luxurious winter coats. Part of survival is transformation and a forfeiture of something that is no longer needed, that would be impairing or would be fragile to the elements. It is nature’s way of protecting herself and her own.
It is autumn in Canada and the leaves are a riot of color. From the most brilliant red and deep burgundies to the sassiest yellow and startling orange there is color mixed with the late green of summer. Each tree can be identified and each tree family prepares for winter together. It is in the fall that the true CHARACTER of the tree is evident.
During the summer there is little to identify the individual trees in a forest. They are all out in the sun, singing with their leaf choirs or shading the earth as a collective canopy. Life is light and bright and very green. Leaf shapes, like people shapes, tell us the family linage of the tree and diverse villages are replicated where a host of individuals live and share the bounty and protection of the collective group.
When autumn comes and the sweetness of the summer days is driven out by frost, the trees start to express themselves in the colors of their leaves. Some take very little urging before letting go of their summer canopy while others hold steadfast to their leaves and the embrace the season with a multitude of color. Some are characters who make us stop and take a photograph appreciating in wonderment the contrasts on their branches while others brood in their nakedness.
Trees, like people, show their true color when under stress. When the cold winds blow and the day is short and the frost nips at our noses, what does our character look like? As we live in our homes, work in our communities or travel around the world – what color do we wear? Do we drop our gloves in flight or fight or stay the road and ensure that those around us are protected until the last moment? Do we bring light and life into the day or stand stark, gray and moody under the changing sky?
The elements of life are like those elements in nature – often uncontrollable, surprising and even sad. But they are ours to own and there is only one choice and that is the choice of how we deal with those challenges. When we shed our skin and begin anew it can be frightful and we may feel vulnerable and exposed. When it is time to say goodbye, to drop a bad relationship, to change jobs, to heal, to work in a new culture or travel to or live in a new place we have the opportunity to be like the individual tree who will show strength of character and conviction.
The most beautiful time of the year in Canada is the autumn when the character of each tree is full on and in any landscape the brilliant individual autumn tree that stands out in the group is the one remembered for its beauty – even with the approach of winter.