I am a deciduous tree. I am not an evergreen. My leaves are destined to float away. Today, I’m feeling the mounting chill of a fading autumn and I’m bracing myself for the moment when my branches become completely bare and exposed.
I love my leaves. They provide a soothing shade in the scorching heat, and a dazzling display of color and flamboyance in the fall. My leaves help passersby identify who I am. Isn’t it satisfying to glance at a tree and be able to immediately snap your fingers and say, “That’s a maple! That’s an oak! That’s a magnolia!” and feel that you know what its defining attribute is? Whether it’s sturdy or flowering or fruit bearing.
The falling of my leaves is not new. It happens cyclically and is a biological necessity. But when my leaves are on the ground, raked up in large piles for children to jump on or blown into the street by old men who find them a nuisance, my heart’s reaction is to weep.
Don’t shove my leaves into bags! Those are my leaves! I grew them and nourished them and now they are gone.
But deciduous trees lose their leaves to conserve water so they can survive the harshest of winters before growing fresh new foliage in the spring. A healthy tree must let go of what no longer serves a purpose, to preserve that which is needed to flourish in the new season. And in the current season, I am not here to be functional or entertaining. I am not here to provide shade, or produce fruit, or excite with my technicolor hues. And I must not worry about having convenient identifiers for casual onlookers.
Right now, I am conserving water. To survive these bitter elements, I am allowing myself to be temporarily indistinguishable in this tangled grove of trunks and twigs. And as quickly as the freezing winds swoop in from the west, they will exit to the east. The sun will rise, the soil will warm, and soon my empty branches will sprout again, more beautifully than ever before.
Some might herald the evergreen, with its consistency, its signature, its comforting predictability.
But I will never be evergreen.
I am deciduous. And my blooming season is just on the horizon.