When the bitter cold of winter starts to thaw, I return. First, a small green bud. Against all odds, growing in spite of the cold. It is April, the time when everything grows. Flowers start to bloom, trees come alive. I am drenched with rain, but my thin, fragile veins soak it in gladly. The children get off the bus for the last time at the end of June. And the sun is out for days and days. I blossom into something beautiful – vibrant and green. I drink in the lush rains of July and August. I live through sun and rain and wind. The sun is harsh at times, but I survive. I always survive, at least for a time.
But I know when it’s early September. The sun is a little less bright, and the wind is just a bit colder. The children are back on their buses, and the dark descends more quickly. People walk outside more briskly. They cover themselves in sweaters and scarves. No more bathing suits. No more splashing in pools. The sun no longer bleaches their hair. I can feel a new season coming.
Soon, I will change. My green color will turn yellow, or perhaps orange. If I’m lucky, I’ll turn a deep, bright red. That is the ultimate color, the most beautiful, the most envied. I won’t know until it happens. And I love to be beautiful. Don’t we all? But of course it’s bittersweet. For it’s then that I know I only have a few weeks to live. At some point, when the winds swirl, and the clouds gather, and the people walk bundled in thick coats, it will happen.
I will fall. Sometimes gently, sometimes urgently. And there is nothing I can do to stop it. If I’m lucky, I will fall into a soft pile. If the winds are harsh that day, I may fall onto the street, or on top of a car. A child may pick me up and give me to her mother. Or I may fall to the ground unnoticed and unappreciated. I never know until it happens. And until it happens, there is always hope – always a chance I will be lovingly cradled and welcomed into someone’s house to be admired. Oh, to be held and photographed and loved. But even then, eventually, I will crumble. I will fall apart and sink back into the earth. I will turn to dust. I will die.
But don’t cry for me. I will be back someday. After the snows have come and gone, and the ice has melted, and the children have put away their chunky snowsuits and winter boots, I will live again. After the lakes have turned back to water, and the days stretch on endlessly, I will return. No, I will not truly be “me” anymore, but I will be a version of me. And I will grow and become green again. And I will breathe in the sun and the rain and be happy to be alive. The children have gotten bigger! And their voices have grown more confident. And new babies have been born. And old people have died. I have missed so much. Every year, I miss so much life.
And through it all, I survive for a time, such a short season. I can only see so much of this beautiful earth. But I’m a lucky one. I come back. I always come back.