Leaves of change

Student photography intern Jeffrey Thelin (’15) captures true JMU hues in fallen leaves on campus

Have you ever noticed that the only time we pay attention to the weather is when it is changing?  Think about it. We grab umbrellas when it starts raining. We shed coats in the spring. In the fall, we wait for the beautiful autumn hues to emerge so we can drive around and relish the colors. We brace for the tease of cold winter winds.

As the leaves turn this year, I’m reminded that not all trees are the same in color or process. In fact, how different trees change is a good metaphor for how many ways we all respond to change.

Some trees, like sourwoods with their flame red leaves, change early as if they are eager to shed summer and prepare for winter. Some of us are like that, always eager to move on to the next event, the next opportunity. These kinds of individuals are not only comfortable with change, they welcome it. They can be impatient with the status quo.

Red fall leaves scattered on Bluestone

Fall leaves on Bluestone (Photo by Jeffrey Thelin (’15))

Others, like the gingkos that line up along Bluestone Drive, are supremely efficient in the face of change. When cold weather comes, overnight gingko trees turn a brilliant monochromatic yellow. A few days or weeks later, depending on night temperatures, they drop their leaves en masse. Efficient. For these kinds of people, change is a mechanism to employ. They are in lock step with it.

And then there are the pin oaks that hold onto their leaves often through the winter — much to the dismay of  homeowners who like to get their leaves raked and their yards tucked away early for winter. Often pin oaks don’t let go of their leaves until new spring growth pushes them out.

JMU's statue of James Madison standing in front of autumn-colored tree

Little Jemmy watches the campus change color (Photo by Jeffrey Thelin)

For some people, like the pin oaks, change is embraced gradually or even reluctantly. Change can feel threatening, even difficult, and sometimes change is difficult. Sometimes a sense of loss with change is warranted. And like pin oaks, holding on a little longer feels right.

Then there are the sugar maples. When they change every fall, their color is bright, vivid, dramatic — almost celebratory. That’s illustrative of the best kind of change, the kind that comes when lives are changed for the better. It’s the kind of reaction to change that appears when lives are improved or saved or enhanced.

What is universal is the sense that change is as inevitable as the changing seasons; how we handle it or use it or exploit it makes all the difference.  And the variety with which we produce and embrace change can be as beautiful as the Shenandoah Valley in autumn.


About James Madison University
This blog is about the people of James Madison University — a caring, committed and engaged community spread all over the world, making lives better and brighter, healthier and safer, kinder and bolder. As Gandhi suggested, we are taking steps to BE the CHANGE we wish to see in the world. And these are our stories....

One Response to Leaves of change

  1. Pingback: Snow Patrol, Irrational decisions and Studying in Grenoble | GlobalEd

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