Changing Leaves

A contemplative piece about the tranquility of fall.

By on September 8, 2022 | Leave a reply

When I was little, my dad used to pick me up from school with a change of clothes in the car to go fishing in the mountains. We’d sit on the banks of the lake and wait … wait for the bobber to dip below the surface. One day, in an effort to use up some energy, I asked my dad if I could walk around the lake. He said yes and I took off.

A few hours later, I ended up back where I started. Eventually, that walk turned into a run as I jogged around the trail that wound in and out of the little coves of the lake. It was maybe seven miles long, long enough when you’re in fifth grade. I remember feeling free and out there on the far reaches of the lake.

When the trail left the shoreline and snaked into the forest or up a hillside, there was a magical feeling in discovering something that was waiting just around the corner: a herd of elk, a patch of bright wildflowers, a little spring flowing out of the rocks. I felt strong and empowered, knowing I had seen things that no one else would see that day. My favorite runs around the lake happened in the fall, when the aspen leaves were changing and a crisp, cool air was settling into the mountains. 

Hannah Green leaf image

A fallen autumn leaf. All photos: Hannah Green

Every fall, the smell of the changing leaves reminds me of those early running days. The change of season always brings a renewed energy along with some hint of anticipation and excitement awaiting the first snow. I pack a warmer sleeping bag when I head out into the hills and wear thicker layers while wandering around in the evening time. I soak in the warm sun and run ridgelines on the bluebird days.

I find a nice rock to sit on for a moment and look out across the golden tundra and the dry peaks. An elk far below bugles across the meadow calling to its mate. There is a calm too that comes with the autumnal air. The mania of summer has passed as we roll into the shorter days. Daydreams of desert trips and ski adventures start to trickle into town.

I am a fairly contemplative and reflective person, probably an inherent trait to anyone spending a lot of time outside alone. But this fall, I’m trying not to think too hard about what the summer was and wasn’t because by looking back a lot, I fail to enjoy and embrace the current season.

I sip my coffee and watch as the sun envelops the surrounding peaks. The birds start to rustle and a pack of coyotes yip in the early morning.

We aren’t so different than the changing leaves it turns out. We go through our cycles of dormancy and life much the same and I’m guessing if a tree could talk it would tell you many parallel stories to your own.

As I jog across the tundra the grasshoppers leap like fireworks from the drying grass. The bees buzz on the last of the purple asters. The nights seem dramatically clear and the Milky Way brighter after a summer of rainy nights.

It’s been well over a year since I’ve felt any kind of contentment with myself, but I feel it right now and am trying to remember this calmness for when the waters get rough again. Maybe the sunny days and some injuries that finally seem to be healing are helping, or maybe it’s just me finally recognizing my own strength and truly, finally, enjoying the freedom of roaming alone. Wherever this season finds you, I hope you can find some similar comfort in the coziness of the colder days to come.

Call for Comments

  • How do you feel about the turn of the seasons?
  • Do you find it calming or do you yearn for endless summer days?

A trail through a wooded area with fall colours

Hannah Green
wanders long distances by foot and takes photos along the way. When not outside, you can likely find her at the nearby coffee shop. Find more on Instagram and at Hannah Green Art.