The Sudden Passage of Time

Even when all of the other trees on campus began to change colors for the fall, the leaves of my sugar maple refused. The sugar maple’s leaves stuck out bright green against the warm orange and red hues surrounding them in the sky. For a week or two, it seemed as though the sugar maple’s leaves were never going to change—every now and then, one more pale orange leaf would emerge on the very tip of the sugar maple’s branches, as if the leaves were reaching their warm, orange-y tips towards the sun.

The sugar maple took its time changing colors.

The sugar maple took its time changing colors.

 

The other trees around the sugar maple were not waiting for their companion to catch up. It seemed as though autumn’s cool touch had passed my sugar maple by, until one day when I was walking along the academic quad and looked up to be greeted by half a tree’s worth of brilliant yellow and pale orange leaves. The newly transformed leaves were still in stark contrast with the jade-green, unaltered leaves, but they were quickly growing in number. Every day I would walk by on my way to class, another handful of leaves had transformed into bright balls of sunshine, until the whole tree looked as though it had been dipped in paint. It was as if the sugar maple had been hesitant to show its true colors, but once it had made up its mind, it threw itself carelessly into full autumn-mode.

Because the sugar maple had been slow to change colors, it was also slow to drop its leaves. The trees all along the academic quad started off slowly—dropping a few leaves here and there—until fall was truly in full swing and forgotten leaves scattered the walkways. The sugar maple watched contemplatively for a while as his companions shed their leaves, but again decided to throw himself full force into the feeling of fall. There was one Friday afternoon when I passed by my sugar maple on my way back to my dorm room in preparation for going home that weekend. I looked up at the sugar maple, and noticed that, upon quick examination, it appeared from the ground as though the tree’s branches were still full with the weight of its colorful leaves. It wasn’t until you really stopped to look that one could notice the bare patches near the top of the canopy—balding spots on the crown of my tree.

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The sugar maple’s brilliant autumnal leaves stood out against the calm, blue sky.

 

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The sugar maple’s bald patches were an unexpected surprise after just a weekend.

For humans, a weekend seems to rush past—if you’re going home for a weekend, the time leading up to your adventure and the travel time seem to dominate those few precious days—you don’t really have time to consider the fact that, in your absence, life on campus continues onward. Time still passes, days still go by. When I arrived back on campus, I passed by my sugar maple. To my astonishment, the sugar maple had discarded the majority of its leaves in the few short days that I was gone. The walkways that snake around the sugar maple were completely covered in the tree’s castoffs, and a few wayward squirrels, fattened by their recent hibernation preparations—were tossing aside these dropped leaves as they dug and foraged.

The sun’s rays no longer filtered through the abundant, lush leaves of my sugar maple on their way to the pavement, but hurriedly wriggled through the tangle of oddly bare branches to come to rest on the thick carpet of fallen leaves. Squirrels no longer sought refuge from the cold amongst the tree’s branches, as the sudden lack of leaves meant that the tree no longer offered any protection from autumn breezes.

I, in a very typical, human-centric way, had only thought about the passing of time from a human standpoint—I spent so long that weekend from place to place and worrying about making time for family while also completing assignments and meeting obligations for schoolwork that I didn’t think to consider that the passage of time was the same on campus and off campus. My sugar maple’s sudden transformation served as a very real reminder that time waits for no one, nor for any tree.

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