Trees, Changing Seasons & Writing

looking down at leaves of red, yellow, and green, through a white-framed window

the view from my front room

I’ve already hung jack-o’-lantern lights, and the first good autumn rain is using my walls and roof as its own soft percussion section. Yet from my top-floor flat, I can still see plenty of green leaves. One of these trees, now still mostly green, gave me the first hints that fall was coming back in August when a few of its leaves turned yellow.

In a city that’s home to deciduous trees, it’s the trees that tell you first when the seasons are changing.

Those yellow leaves have since turned gold and then brown and fallen down. Other parts of town have more leaves on the walkways (they don’t survive long on the roads); all month, I’ve taken time, on those rare dry days, to crunch through drifts of leaves on my way to the office or the library. A few times I’ve jumped from pile to pile instead of just stomping through.

Already I’m thinking about how I won’t accept that it’s winter until the last leaves have fallen, leaving behind branches and trunks that grow dark and slick in the rain—no matter how many layers I’m wearing before that happens. Given how slick last year’s snow made the sidewalks, I try not to think about the dark wood taking on a white outline.

None of these changes happen all at once. We choose dates and times to say when one season ends and another begins, when we change our clocks, when we pull out our boxes of scarves and thick sweaters. The trees warn us when these days approach but, more importantly, they show how arbitrary these moments are. Seasonal change, and the turning of the leaves, is a process, not a moment.

And my writing process is a bit like that process. I don’t write in discrete first, second, and third drafts: some paragraphs may have been written and rewritten multiple times before other are made more than an outline. Trees don’t make sure that all their leaves have turned red or yellow before they begin to lose them. Some leaves are still producing plenty of chlorophyll while others have already curled, dried, and fallen.

trees on a lawn with sunlight streaming through gold and yellow leaves, some leaves have fallen onto the grass

Queen's University Belfast Quad, September 2009

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