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The Facts of Leaf

To the untrained eye, writing might look a lot like simply raking leaves. Then again, maybe they're one and the same.

Truth is, I spent a good part of this day doing a bit of both—whisking a motley carpet of leaves into piles, and then standing, leaning on the rake, and staring into the November sky. Rake. Think. Repeat.

The work itself is rewarding. It begins in chaos and ends in order and in between is nothing but near-silence broken only by the shuffling of the rake through the leaves. In other words, it stands in sharp contrast to the rest of my days.

And the leaves themselves are excellent companions. Tulip tree and maple, sassafras and sweet gum. Vivid bursts of yellow, red and orange after so many months of green—then always, ultimately, brown.

But here's the beauty part: Those glorious fall colors that rise and fall so quickly—too quickly—are not the result of some amazing transformation. Yes—the colors we see do change, of course. But the leaves are the same. It's not that an ordinary green leaf suddenly and spectacularly becomes a brilliant scarlet leaf. That scarlet leaf is inside all along, waiting for the cholorphyll to ebb in the chill and fading light of autumn—waiting for the green to recede and, at long last, let it shine.

I'd like to think that we're the same. We all start out tender and green and full of promise, yet our bodies will wither in the end. But maybe somewhere in between we, too, will have a glorious autumn—and I'll bet there's one hell of a beautiful leaf inside each of us, just waiting to be revealed.