It happens every October, but has it ever been more breathtaking than this year? Showy leaves, an extravaganza. It makes me feel quick and bouncy, like I did as a child.
I wake up and widen my eyes to see the spectacular.
So many colors. The dogwoods and hickories flaunt a display, as if performing on stage. The ginkgo, just now turning. One morning soon, all the yellowing leaves will fall at once. It’s bam! and every fan-shaped leaf will be on the ground.
Clearly, I am in the dazzle of trees, so I’m leaning into it.
Someone talks science and reminds me that it won’t last, that it is the beauty before winter. I know this already, of course, but I’m determined to not let that piece of knowledge dampen my spirit. I am not into facts right now, I’m into the art. Of course, I have the awareness that the tree will renew and put on a performance next year, but right now, I’m into what I see.
I live in the backwoods, so when I drive to town, I am alert to color from my driveway, along Push Mountain Road, and other two-lane roads. If I lived in a big town, I’d deliberately drive miles to see a mass of trees.
If I had to choose a profession right now, I’d be a truck driver. Can you imagine how many magnificent trees the truckers get to see?
And how can anyone look on this beauty and not believe in God?
I try to recall which roads had the most beautiful colors last year, but it doesn’t matter. Whichever road I take, I’m overwhelmed with brilliance. The trees are ripe. No way to miss it. Not this year.
As I drive, I can hardly keep my eyes on the road. A huge sweetgum tree, on my left. I am like a kid seeing Christmas lights or a doe with her fawn. I react to the first sight of the tree—I brake for it.
The sun muscles its way through clouds and kindles the mountains. It won’t last long. What a great gift.
And I thank you, God, for eyes to see. Grateful to live where there is an abundance of trees.
This is my week to go for an overnight in another town. Poetry related, but I see poetry in the trees in front of me, to the side of me, behind me. It is everywhere!
No one in the car with me, but I say it anyway: Outstanding!
These are moments when the world of politics, current news, family, and friends take a backseat. It won’t last. Momentary, but real.
I am awake. I catch trees here and there with my eyes like they are fly balls coming my way. Aliveness—ocher, vermilion, rust, peach, red, orange, yellow. I am on fire. I see red flames and rusty oaks. Burning bushes. It won’t hold. I know. It won’t stay. I know. But I try my best to memorize the fiery dogwoods, the happy hickories.
I’m not even asking for it to last, you know. I’m on fire and not asking it to last. But while it is here, I bathe myself in it.
When I come to the town of Harrison, Arkansas, I take a sharp right and head for Maplewood Cemetery to see the colorful maples in mass. They are lit candles with flickering flames of gold and red. My eyes are on fire. Crackling colored gold and red, ready to comfort everyone with warmth and light.
I don’t want to stop looking at them.
Finally, I leave the hillside of fire and drive through the busy town toward more trees.
Why am I even on this trip? I thought I’d packed up for the poetry ahead, but maybe it was for the trees. Yes, I’ve come for the trees.
There. I. Said. It.
That’s how powerful trees are for me. I said it. It’s what I’ll come back for. Never does autumn stay with me, but I think I can recall how it felt. Nothing else feels like this. Nothing.
And believe me, I’ve felt other things that didn’t last.
P.S. Thank you for reading, my friends. Hope you can relate to my passion for nature, especially my passion for autumn trees.
Photo of leaves from trees in Pat’s yard taken by artist/photographer Wendy Wilkins from Bryant, Arkansas, October 27, 2018.