The year the leaves didn’t change color

bare treesIt was the fall of 1990. A cold, crisp morning and I was headed out the door before the sun was up. A clarinet case in my one hand and a school bag slung across my back. Another concert band practice this morning. If I hurried, I could catch the early bus in time and avoid the 30 minute walk to school.

Gazing down the busy road, I was relieved to see wide-set headlights and the white-ish glow from the city bus. I could use the break from a long walk. Climbing up the steps of the bus, I flashed the driver my pass and slumped in the nearest seat.

It would be a long day. Student council meeting at lunch and yearbook meeting after school. My mother was worried that I took too much on. I was also involved in church activities, in addition to taking violin lessons and a dozen other projects as they came up. But I liked to be busy and so did my friends. We liked involvement and getting things done. I’d be fine.

I rested my head against the large, cool window. Shafts of light spread out from the rising sun between the houses and buildings lining the road. I smiled. Autumn was such a beautiful time of year.

I turned my gaze upward to admire the trees. Instead seeing gorgeous golds and reds, I found nothing but bare trees!

Pressing my hands up against the window, I looked up and down the street. I couldn’t be! Turning my head, I strained to see the trees on the other side of the street. The exact same thing. The rising sun created long eerie shadows of tree limbs stripped of their foliage, like a scene from a scary movie.

How did I completely miss the leaves changing colors…and then falling from the trees? Could it be possible that I was so busy that I didn’t even notice the change in the environment around me?

Autumn was my favourite season. Leaves changing colors was a highlight of the year. That majestic burst of color in the fall was like Nature’s last kiss before hibernating for the winter. And I missed it. It would be an entire year before I could witness the beauty of fall.

I was filled with a profound sadness for what I lost out on that year. What else had I missed?

As I got off at school, my sadness was soon eased by a grateful heart. Grateful that I

This tree on our block has already started turning colours. I guess it didn't get the memo that it is still summer! So it is the first tree I've noticed changing this year. My yearly reminder.

This tree on our block has already started turning colours. I guess it didn’t get the memo that it is still summer! So it is the first tree I’ve noticed changing this year. My yearly reminder.

had experienced this lesson now, at 17 years old. How many people would go through life missing the changing leaves and not realize the lesson until it was too late? I promised myself that I would never let that happen again.

When fall approaches, I watch those trees and remember that lesson I learned in so many years ago.






Cherie Gagnon– Cherie

What’s a lesson you were glad to learn in your youth?


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6 responses to “The year the leaves didn’t change color”

  1. julane hiebert says :

    I was a junior in high school and we lived about 40 miles from my grandfather, though until the summer prior to that we had lived in the same very small town. My parents were going to visit him, but there was a basketball game in my old high school that same night and I opted to go there instead. I never saw my grandpa alive again, and I was always so sad that I hadn’t taken the time to visit with him. The lesson? Like the falling of leaves that happens every year– One should never take even the small things for granted.

  2. Susan Mires says :

    What a neat way to write this story! There’s a song on the radio that begins, “I tend to be busier than I should be.” Guilty as charged. I want to enjoy summer for just a little longer this year.

  3. Ian says :

    Autumn is my favourite season, too. (Do Canadians call it autumn vs US who use “fall”?) I love all those rustic, burnt colours one gets in autumn. We have 3 big trees in our yard that deposit all their leaves but I have no qualms raking them up as I get to enjoy their colour.

    Lovely post, Cherie. Great reminder to “stop and smell the roses” or “stop and admire the change in leaf colour”. Ha!

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