One Red Leaf

A meditation for those who feel alone in their convictions

One red leaf has appeared on one of the crepe myrtles that flanks our apartment balcony. The rest of the tree wears a coat of a tired, dull green, sleeves fraying into scraggly ends where the pink blossoms of summer have fallen away—mostly onto this very balcony. A few pink clusters cling to the branches still, in sporadic, drying clumps. But that one red leaf arrests my attention as I sit with my coffee, soaking up the cooling breeze. 

For once, autumn weather has arrived on time here in North Texas, though I know the leaves won’t change until November. But one red leaf has absorbed all that intense Texas sunshine and spilled it back in flame. It stands out like a spot of blood or a stray blot from an editor’s pen. It’s a blood moon, a prophetic portent announcing autumn’s advent. “Change will come,” she cries, alone.

But now that my eyes are alert to this change, I can see she’s not alone. High above her, on a different branch, another lone leaf fans from green to red, its tip a glowing ember. And now I can’t stop squinting through the branches, on my hunt for red October. Is that a third, or just a dark magenta blossom? And there—is that a fourth, or just a trick of the morning sun?

The relief of autumn is always so great after our sweltering summers that it has become my favorite season, a season of visible change, a season of hope for new beginnings in school, work, and this year, in the upcoming election. These flickers of fall renew my hope and my strength, not just because they announce change, but because they remind me of the process of change.

Sometimes change comes slowly, almost imperceptibly: one lone leaf at a time. But when you’re that leaf, when you’ve changed already, and you stand brazenly, a throbbing sore thumb that cannot conceal its difference among all those stubborn summer leaves that cling to the season past and deny the change in the wind, you may feel lonely. 

But you’re not alone. 

Other bright flames bear witness to the turn of the earth, the shift of the light. And it won’t be long before the flicker spreads, and you’ll awake one morning to entire city streets, entire hillsides, burning with autumn’s light. 

Hold on, dear friends. Bear your torch against the dark. Change will come. And you’re not alone.