Saturday, November 29, 2008

Dashing Toward Change

- This week I went back to my home town for what is probably my last Thanksgiving break for a long time. As we drove through town, I was AMAZED at the changes that have occurred in my absence. Along Main Street, where there used to be an old building and a vacant lot, there is now a McDonald's, complete with golden arch sign and drive-thru window. The old pharmacies that I visited as a child are gone, and their services have been replaced by a new Rite Aid store. I never thought that McDonalds would invade my hometown, so it was bizarre to see it across the street from the old brick post office.

- On my way home, I ended up on a flight with a high school classmate of mine that I hadn't seen in several years. I had a great time catching up with her, talking with her about the tension between home and school, and chatting about what our other classmates have been up to lately.

- The school I attended for K-12 has been bulldozed since last I visited so that its sign now marks an empty lot. Behind the empty lot sits a brand-new school building, one I campaigned for while I was in high school and dreamed of as I sat in the not-air-conditioned ancient brick building. Instead of a dungeon-like art room that had once been used as a locker room, the new building has a real art classroom. It has a stage twice the size of the old one and auditorium chairs that are actually *gasp* comfortable! Yes, the new building is infinitely better than the ancient building where I was educated, where large chunks of the facade sometimes fell onto the desks in the classrooms during storms. Still, seeing that the building where I spent 13 years of my life is gone was a bit of a shock.

- My sister got married last weekend. I have never seen her more beautiful or happier. While the ceremony was not what I would have chosen, the music was incredible. And, although I already miss our time being kids and teenagers together and hanging out one on one, I found myself giddy as I watched my sister so obviously joyful and in love. It was wonderful to see so much of my family (especially the awesome ones from Denver that I hardly ever get to see!), and to get to be part of such a big moment in my sister's life. Plus, I got a pretty cool brother-in-law out of the deal.

Friday, November 07, 2008


A leaf crunches beneath my feet, and I glance up into the branches above as another leaf falls toward my shoulder. All around me the trees seem caught on fire, their leaves radiant red, orange, and yellow against the drab brick and white-frame houses. The sudden color of the leaves makes me feel as though a toddler with a red crayon in one fist and a yellow one in the other has added random scribbles to the blank coloring book page of my neighborhood. But, in reality, it's the last gift of the trees before they rest for the winter.

I remember when the leaves first appeared in March, when the bare trees outside my window began to bud, and their leaves unfurl. I remember the day I woke up to dim, green-tinted light pouring through the glass, instead of the harsh rays of the winter sun that had glared unmediated onto the carpet on previous mornings. For months I'd sit on the balcony beneath the shade of those trees, with only small speckles of light slipping through the leaves to illumine the book in my hands.

Now those same leaves form the psychedelic carpet that crunches beneath my feet, the colors reminding me of the wild shag carpet of my childhood bedroom. The reds, orange, and yellow brightened my walk home today, and as I walked past them I thought about transitional seasons.

Finally a pause has come in my semester, which has allowed me to lift my gaze from the path beneath my feet long enough to notice my surroundings. Suddenly I find that my constant slog through the tasks of my coursework has brought me farther than I realized. There are a mere three weeks remaining in the semester and I have already registered for my final semester of this program, and perhaps of my schooling. I can see a new season coming, a spring that will follow. But at this moment, I long to enjoy the bright leaves while they last. I have loved this place, this program, these people. I have loved the season that I see fading and, on days of doubt, I wonder whether the leaves will reappear just as beautifully again next time. The leaves won't be the same, they won't look the same. They never do. But there will be leaves again, and they will give shade and speckled light, and they, too will turn bright and fade away.

As I write this, I can hear the rain falling outside, and I know that its drumming and weight will bring many of the remaining leaves to the ground. But the rain nurtures, too, so new green leaves will be able to appear in just a few months. So I lift my glass: to the brilliance of the autumn leaves and the hope for a new canopy soon to come.