Save a Leaf, Paint a Tree

In the fall of my senior year of college, I was perched in an apartment over one of the busiest streets in West Chester. I grew to adore the place - the buzz of rush hour traffic and passing conversations quickly became a necessary comfort. The only catch was the apartment's proximity to campus - Or lack thereof. The walk to class took about 20 minutes, which equates to right around 40 days and 40 nights on lazy-legged-college-kid time. All seriousness, the walk wasn't anything wild, but it began to drag after the first month of the semester.

One afternoon trekking to ENG 400, my perspective was rinsed clean and hung to glimmer in the sun, as if washed by a brisk October rain. Following one of those otherworldly autumn showers - where light outlines the hard edges of bruise-blue clouds overhead - I was struck by the hues plastered around me on the sidewalks and streets. Leaves big as your face in gold, amber, and cadmium red, slicked wet as if painted where they lay. Towering maples lined those streets and sent their leaves spiraling downward. A strong enough gust could bring down a curtain of color.

And I thought, who am I to be bored? Who am I to feel uninspired on this street, in this town, in this world, in this life?

I started picking up the most vibrant of leaves. I entered my classes with a select bouquet of crimson or yellow and tucked them in the pages of my books. And you know what happened then? People noticed. I had classmates and acquaintances approach me proudly, displaying their perfect artifacts in all of their autumnal brilliance. "Saw this on the sidewalk by Main Hall! That red, right? Looks like fire or tie dye. Here, it's for you."

That fall, my notebooks and afternoons brimmed with warm colors and warmer people. Is there any phrase more heartening than "I saw this and thought of you"? Those leaves, pressed and made immortal, often serve as my canvasses for nighttime skyscapes or other worthy natural scenes. As I illustrate my own take on this awe-inspiring world, I'm reminded of the kindness of strangers and the beauty that resides all around us if we can just remember to see it.


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