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Leaves in our lives

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    Fall colors are muted this year, although still enjoyable, such as this scene at Locust Lake State Park in Barnesville. DONALD R. SERFASS/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS

Published October 23. 2017 03:22PM

Fall colors are muted this year.

They’re not packing their typical punch. I suppose weather conditions just weren’t right.

But in some ways, it becomes more exciting and challenging to search out pockets of pigment, those hidden valleys or vistas where color excels.

Every fall I take the Canon and search out fanciful gumdrops along the horizon. Nature’s brilliant palette.

It means so much to me. I see a mosaic of life reflected in the foliage. Deciduous trees in autumn, it seems, symbolize the life cycle so perfectly.

Their glorious hues tell of growth, survival, preparation for winter and, finally, silence.

Trees just have a way of mimicking, or maybe complementing, our existence.

This idea is reinforced in a metaphor: we call our genealogical lineage “the family tree.”

When folks search the family tree, they often uncover an assortment of odd characters, or even scofflaws. There’s a humorous quote: “Every family tree has some sap in it.”

And if so, perfectly fine. So be it.

Our ancestors, or at least the oddball ones, are colorful leaves of that tree. And that’s a good thing because they help create a panorama.

Our own lives, too, coincide with leaves.

We start as babies, or buds. At infancy, we’re fresh, new and inexperienced. You might say we’re green.

But as we mature, we observe and learn. We grow through experience. We absorb life’s nuances. We gain unique perspective.

This kind of enrichment gives each of us color. And varied life experiences shade each of us a different way.

As we grow into our senior years, if we’re blessed enough to do so, the colors turn brilliant.

But I sometimes wonder if society appreciates the cycle. In Asian countries, the elderly are revered. But is that same feeling mirrored here?

Whenever I visit a nursing home or care facility, I see colorful leaves sadly cast aside because, in many cases, children are too busy to appreciate them.

Of course, many residents are there because they require intensive nursing care or specialized treatment. Of maybe they have no family left.

But it seems just as many are put into institutions simply because family members don’t want to be bothered.

I’m reminded of this every autumn when sightseers by the thousands flock to the mountains to peek at flaming foliage. They take the time to gaze at changing leaves even as some may have turned a blind eye to the real color in their lives — those loved ones cast aside.

I can’t help but think about that irony because too many leaves have fallen from my life.

Too much color has disappeared. Maybe that’s why I go out searching with a camera, spying through a glass lens to recapture color that has long vanished.

We’re only given so much time to enjoy the warmth. After it’s gone, all we have left are memories. Sure, memories are nice. But they’re never enough to fill the void.

That’s why it’s important to celebrate colorful leaves.

We need to cherish each one. We need to rejoice in the beauty that surrounds.

An old poem says: “April and June, months of bloom. And later comes October. The leaves will fall, so will we all, when youth and bloom are over.”

If you do one thing this fall, be sure to cherish the elderly person in your life — a parent, grandparent, uncle, aunt, neighbor or friend.

Take the time to enrich yourself by enjoying the color of the leaf.

Recognize the bounty of maturity, seasoned growth and a full heart.

Above all, be part of it.

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