Color change

Few places display change more beautifully than JMU’s Edith J. Carrier Arboretum— especially this time of year.  It’s a great place to visit now — especially with the Skyline Drive closed, the national forests barricaded and tension radiating from Washington like shockwaves. Now is a good time to take a walk, soak in the natural beauty, absorb a little peace.

The arboretum — opened nearly a quarter century ago — is tucked into the eastern edge of campus. It is a delight, a respite, an educational resource and more. From their website:

The Edith J. Carrier Arboretum is a 125-acre urban botanical preserve located within the city of Harrisonburg and the campus of James Madison University. It provides an ideal combination of naturalized botanical gardens (33 acres) and forest (92 acres), complementing each other and serving the purposes of research, teaching, and demonstration. This green space is home to a diverse ecosystem featuring native plants of the mid-Appalachians (woodland wildflowers, azaleas, and rhododendrons); a collection of non-native trees, shrubs, and bulbs (magnolias, Kousa dogwoods, hollies, daffodils, etc.); an Oak-Hickory Forest; a lowland swale; a shale barren; herb and rose gardens; a pond habitat; and a wetlands garden. An outdoor amphitheatre, terraced gardens, a Pavilion, a Monarch Way Station, and the Frances Plecker Education Center enhance the complex further.

More than anything, it’s a local destination. To visit JMU without a trip to the arboretum is to miss one of the university’s unique spots. It is the only arboretum on a public university campus in Virginia — a place full of walking trails, gardens and deep forests.

It is an exceptional VIEW of JMU, especially at this time of year. Take a look….

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To learn more: http://www.jmu.edu/arboretum/

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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.

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