There Ought to be a Name
I have a friend that just came back from a road trip, taking mostly back roads in western Illinois and Wisconsin to catch some fall foliage along the Mississippi River.
Taking a fall colors road trip is a popular and easy escape for people who live on the east coast as well.
Anywhere there is a tree, a deciduous tree, in an area which sees seasonal changes, people are treated to a spectacular show.
Whether standing along a street or in a park, or casting a reflected image in a still tributary, feeling the end of summer and the beginning of winter seems to be condensed into this one image.
At this time of year, red replaces green in the treetops.
In anticipation of trees shedding their defining trait before their branches go bare, many of us pay special attention to daily changes in hue.
There ought to be a name…
For this particular shade of red leaves.
I think of many different names for shades of red lipstick
Ruby, Cranberry, Hot Sauce, Majestic, Uncensored, Orange-red, Bad-ass…
A perfect name for the red leaves of fall could not just be about tone and concentration. If there was a name, it would need to capture the feeling of time standing still and pay homage to all the incremental changes that led up to this moment.
It seems essential to acknowledge that any tree before you will not look exactly the same the next day.
I know that there are scientific reasons why the leaves on some trees turn red in the fall. It has to do with temperature and amount sunlight, species, and sugar content. Maples and some varieties of oak, like Shumard, tend to take on fiery tones.
I think my delight in seeing the leaves of a tree turning red goes beyond the color itself.
There ought to be a name.
In Illinois, where I live, leaves on most trees turn yellow or orange. I like the idea that trees that take on a crimson glow are rarer.
The conditions have to be right for this transformation to take place. You need sunlight and cool, but not freezing, temperatures. Most importantly — you have to be there to observe the transformation.
You need to have an appreciation for contrast.
Maybe I am more aware of red leaves because they are seen against a blue sky.
Maybe they make a bigger impression on me than yellow leaves because they appear less frequently.
Or maybe, I consciously etch the image in my mind because I know their boldness and fragility won’t last.
In looking into a maple whose leaves are turning red, I can experience the beauty of impermanence, the constant movement of time.
The saturation of red on a sugar maple, worn like a halo around the edges of unfurled branches, is captivating. I can peer past the outer layer and look at the still-green leaves closer to the trunk.
I can think about how the pigment will change over a matter of days and weeks, how the tree won’t look the same from one day to the next.
There ought to be a name.
Not just for the particular shade of red I see today but for the beauty of impermanence.
And isn’t this the way we celebrate life itself.
Cherishing whatever beauty each moment contains is no small thing.
Re-printed with permission.
Deborah Hawkins has been blogging on gratitude and mindfulness for over a decade, posting over 500 essays. In December of 2019, she brought out two books, The Best of No Small Thing — Mindful Meditations, a collection of favorite blogs, and Practice Gratitude: Transform Your Life — Making the Uplifting Experience of Gratitude Intentional, a workbook on her process. Through her books, classes, and coaching, she teaches people how to identify things to be grateful for in everyday experiences.
Visit Deborah at: Visit No Small Thing