By Bruce Stambaugh
With our numerous stands of mixed hardwoods, I always look forward to fall’s colorful leaf display. In our busied lives, however, the transition from green to gold seems to take forever. But in a flash or a persistent wind, the trees all stand leafless.
That realization confronted me as the autumn leaves reached their vibrant peak when I received word of Ivan’s death in the middle of the afternoon. Ivan was a valued member of the cancer support group to which I belong. I had visited with him in the hospital only a week earlier knowing that his time was near.
Still, when I heard the sad news, tears of sorrow flowed for Ivan and his family. Our intimate group had welcomed him in, and he contributed far more than his usually quiet demeanor would have suggested. Later that same evening, joy overcame my sadness as my favorite team, the Cleveland Indians, claimed Major League Baseball’s American League pennant. It was a bittersweet moment, one that Ivan would have relished with me.
Right after the final out, I called my friend Tim, also an avid Indians fan. He was as giddy as I was. When I invited him to the first game of the World Series, I think he fell over.
I was fortunate to have secured tickets for the opening World Series game long before the Cleveland club even began the postseason. I hoped beyond hope that they would make it, and they had. I wanted Tim to share in the joy of seeing a World Series game in Cleveland with me.
The leaves were still coloring up when I left Virginia’s majestic Shenandoah Valley the next day to return home for Ivan’s viewing. Paying my respects to the family became a personal priority.
I had traveled the same roads from Ohio to Virginia just after visiting Ivan the previous week. The leaves in the mountains of western Maryland and northern West Virginia were near their peak. Those in both Ohio and Virginia were turning, but still had a ways to go.
I was amazed at what a difference those few days had made. Patches of red, gold, and burgundy dotted the forested mountain slopes. On the ridges above, giant white windmills twirled in the autumn breezes.
I thought about Don Quixote jousting with those Dutch windmills. I was satisfied to simply photograph this real live contrast of beauty and the beast and continued on my way.
When I got to Maryland’s mountains highest altitude where I thought the colors would be the brightest, I was disappointed. Many of the leaves had already dropped. Some trees were completely bare.
When I stopped for lunch, I commented to the waiter about my disappointment in missing the peak coloration. I was three days too late, he said.
That happens in life. Our timing just isn’t what it might have been.
It was dark and pelting rain when I arrived at home. But just the illumination from my car’s headlights told me the sturdy sugar maple in my backyard was glowing showy orange.
The combination of rain and wind brought down lots of leaves. But plenty remained for all to enjoy.
Baseball. World Series. Friends. Fall’s coloring contest. I know these precious moments will all wither away like the last leaves of autumn, which passes by us in a vapor.
Life can be like that, too, a hard but applicable metaphorical reality.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2016