The Season of Change
A Walk Through a Season
Though it arrives each year, the crunch under my falling feet sounds different, the colors in the trees look different, and the smell of the air takes on a unique quality. As I walk through the woods it occurs to me that it is not the sounds and colors and smells that have changed through the years, but rather myself. I have grown just as the trees have grown, autumn having changed the world around me in a familiar yet different way. I am taught new lessons from old teachers.
Around me the trees bear their plumes of foliage in deep crimson, spotless yellow, and dark orange. But their color means something different. I look upon them with a deeper sense of admiration and appreciation. I realize that these leaves are new, each falling at their own leisure. The sounds I hear remind me that a different generation calls these woods home. The old have passed away and so too will all that I see. Mist hangs low some days, the thoughts of Earth revealing themselves. They engage me into deep contemplation until I think of the balance of beauty and death that fall so subtly communicates. The beauty of the leaves exists only for a moment before they are siphoned of color, falling reluctantly, slowly, to their deathbed. Yet perhaps it is because they are doomed, because fall is doomed, that it is so beautiful.
The Annual Metamorphosis
The gradual change from summer to autumn is perhaps most noticeable through color as it seemingly seeps through the veins of leaves. First one tree then another, a speckled forest among the resistant giants still green from summer. Yet the cold heralds the encroaching season, each tree realizing the time has come once again to display a banquet to the eyes, until finally the wood is painted with an array of vibrant colors. Autumn has become a means of change.
A walk through the park proves the metamorphosis, each tree exhibiting its own foliage, its own color, as a piece of art in a museum displays itself. With color and chill in the air, people pile on layers, insistent to continue their day despite the cold. Yet the season of change is not limited to trees and, unbeknownst or not, people become enveloped in a cocoon of introspection and realization. Silence slowly envelops the community, a companion of the cold that lays light yet heavy in the air. The trees sit stiff and bare, brittle for the chill that seeps in their pores. Walking in the brisk morning, people are left bare, though not outwardly but rather inwardly. As they walk, the quietness leaves them speechless, their thoughts a rediscovered friend. Just as the trees leave themselves bare for judgment, people wander into self-reflection. The silence leaves little room for distraction. All the while the cold air accepts the warmth of breath as a milky cloud of rising smoke, reminding the living that they are alive.
As the cold air stings the body, serving as another reminder of what it is to be alive, a contracting gesture of wrapping arms around the chest and huddling the chin closer to the neck proves a useless attempt to get warm. Only inside the nearest café does the familiar sensation of warmth return, a hot ceramic mug enclosed between the palms. Outside the window others brave the cold in a stillness that only exists in the season of change. But thoughts are not restricted to the outdoors and soon the quiet of the café becomes noticeable until the mind allows no room for escape.
Outside the world humbly asks for attention, for the changing of the leaves is a noiseless process. The beauty of nature is restored, or rather makes itself more obvious. Even when the trees shed their silent brown tears that fall slowly for the earth to accept, the beauty is still there. The frail, brittle frame of a once full flower sits for the entire world to see. Without the layers of leaves, the woods become eerie and ominous, a feeling of nimble Death having swept through the bows. Yet with enough exposure, the woods become a place of opposite intent, a place of solitude. And it is in this solitude that each tree submits to change while the people contemplate quietly behind glass windows, in front of a flickering fire. The leaves that drift slowly but surely to their place in the earth would serve to nourish their creator come next spring, as thoughts would serve to admonish character to their creator in due time.
While the days pass by, one steel-blue sky after another, the season of change stirs other creatures into action. Squirrels gather food for the coming months and larger animals, such as bears, retire to their dens for the remainder of the year. During their hibernation, animals experience the beauty of the metamorphosis of fall, huddling in their homes as a caterpillar in a cocoon. The trees themselves provide shelter for many, harboring them against the insistent cold. While they themselves have lost their leaves, they find the patience to protect others from the elements, all the while staying humble sentinels of the world. Soon spring will emerge and the world along with it.
A Change in Color
The vibrant colors so unique to the fall season are both aesthetically pleasing and scientifically appreciable, for they are the result of complex interactions between the trees, their leaves, and the surrounding environment. Trees have the ability to photosynthesize, or gather energy from the sun, through the chlorophyll found in their leaves. This substance allows trees to nourish themselves while converting water and carbon dioxide into oxygen and carbohydrates. Yet the green pigment found in chlorophyll which gives the leaves their green color is not the only pigment present in leaves. Other pigments, including yellow, orange and red, are present, being overshadowed by the much higher volumes of green.
But the autumn allows the other pigments a chance to show themselves. As differences in the length of daylight and temperatures occur, the leaves abandon the use of chlorophyll and thereby lose their green color. As the green pigments of the leaves become less, others take over, displaying a montage of vivid color that paints the forest as a canvas. Each tree, through its various ratios of chemicals and therefore pigmentation, produce different colors and illustrate an individual contribution.
The relationship between trees and their surroundings is brought to light in the fall season. The adaptation of trees is a testament to the complex interactions among nature. With a change in season comes a change in the surrounding life, a delicate balance of Earth’s ecology. Trees illustrate their harmony with the world as they undergo a transformation. Not only do the trees change color during autumn, the intensity of the colors are subject to a variety of elements including temperature, light, and water supply. An early frost tends to weaken the colors while rainy days and relatively warmer temperatures just above freezing allow the colors in the trees to flourish.
After a time, many of the colored specimens have their paint washed away as they shed their leaves. The process takes place as a layer of cells is produced at the point where the leaf is attached to the branch. These cells cut away the leaf and, after the leaf has left its tree, the cut is sealed so that the tree can remain healthy. Left bare for the cold of winter, the trees still retain their beauty as fragile frames.
Graduation: Class of 2014
Hometown: Greensboro, NC
Palm, Carl E., Jr. "Why Leaves Change Color." ESF. Environmental Information Series, 2013. Web. 02
Dec. 2013. <http://www.esf.edu/pubprog/brochure/leaves/leaves.htm>.