Every day last fall, I’d cruise right past this one particular tree on my way to Target or a local lunch spot. It’s easy to spot amongst its brethren — mostly because at this time of year, it’s a flaming, bright yellow. We have green, green and green — and then SHAPOWEE! This beauty comes up out of nowhere, blinding tired workers like yours truly with its brilliance.
Each time I drove by that tree last October, I’d stop and think, “I really need to get a picture of that.” It’s just one of those gorgeous, random things that stop you in your tracks as you hurry through your daily life, not paying attention or looking for anything in particular. But each afternoon on my way to Einstein’s or Panera, I’d drift right on by — not wanting to pull out of traffic or be bothered to find my camera, inevitably buried in the dark recesses of my purse. Though I’d give it a longing stare, I never bothered to pause and really look at it.
And then, one day, those vibrant, brilliant leaves were gone — scattered, crunched.
Fall is settling into Southern Maryland once more and I’m riding right along with it. Earlier this week, imagine my surprise to see that — yes! — my tree was turning again! I admired the golden leaves on my way to and from errands every day this week, but didn’t bother to slow down now. Once again, I made up excuses — people around would think I’m crazy, photographing a tree; it’ll be too hard to merge back into traffic; I’m in a hurry and, as usual, don’t have the time to stop.
But today? No. Today, I pulled over — and I got out. I dug around in my purse for the camera and, yes, it was hidden underneath stacks of receipts and Chapstick and my wallet. But I got it out and snapped, snapped and snapped, not caring if people looked at me like I’d just dropped in for a stay en route to Venus.
Because, you know — a tree like that reminds me to keep my eyes open; to stay alert and awake in my own life, no matter the consequences of making myself vulnerable. To stop and take stock of what matters to me — of what makes me happy. Not to become comfortable or complacent, blind and closed-off.
The next time I see something beautiful or alarming or scary or good, I’m not going to cruise right past it — in fact, I’m not driving past anything anymore.
So here’s to autumn — and to always stopping to photograph the brilliant trees.