Autumn leaves go very near the top of my favorite things list. I grew up a few hundred miles north of where I now live, just far enough away for seasonal change to be much more apparent. I remember watching for the colors to appear when temperatures dropped. After the first frost, scarlet Sumac, yellowing Sycamore and Sweet Gum were blazing drifts of foliage that popped out of the evergreen forests of Pine and Cedar along East Texas roadsides. A few years in Oklahoma are remembered as having beautiful fall colors. Some time living in and near Dallas when our boys were little brought us plenty of pretty leaves and fallen ones to pile up and scuffle through. My sweet niece sent me pictures of the brilliant confetti of New Jersey leaves just last week before Hurricane Sandy caused so much destruction in their area. I am grateful she and her family are safe, but know that so many others are ravaged from the brutal storm. Winds didn’t just blow away the beautiful leaves, whole trees were uprooted.
Swirling in the mix of my concern and prayers, I have thought how glad I am that Jen saw the beauty of those leaves and shared the images with me. In reality, I have lived a good deal of my life where the autumn colors were little changed, or at most subtle – South Texas, Southern California, Indonesia. For twenty years now, at home here on the South Texas Gulf Coast, I need to look more closely at the gifts of Autumn. I love the yellow leaves that swirl from Chinaberry and Elms, the little vermillion flags waving from Hawthorne and Crepe Myrtle. But most of all, I treasure the leaves that fall from my Magnolia tree, bronzed and gilded on one side that is lacquered shiny, and soft sueded brown on the underside. Magnolia leaves were my playthings when I was a child. A bank of Magnolia leaves graced our wedding. I stood in front of a Magnolia tree in Bogor on the island of Java. As I walk in these days leading to my turning 72, the turning of these magnificent leaves is with me again. I am thankful.