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Four Years at the Mount

Freshman year

Stop And Smell The Leaves

Angela Tongohan
Class of 2020

(10/2016) I was standing by the side of the road. Around me stood wide oak trees as tall as buildings. The tired houses of my neighborhood uniformly lined the street, each sitting a few feet behind a small square of dull yellow grass. The crisp air shocked my skin, leaving it red and rosy. The sky was a bright light blue. It could have been summer, except the leaves of the trees were deep hues of red and orange. They hung as a beautiful mixture of electrifyingly, bright shades: leaves as red as tomatoes, oranges as intense as fire, yellows as brilliant as the sun.

Fall was such a beautiful season. The colors brought so much life to my surroundings that it was ironic how it traditionally and symbolically warned of death. The leaves were dying, one-by-one, slowly drifting their ways from the strong branches to the solid, cold ground. Every so often, the wind would blow especially hard and throw a handful of leaves across the street. The wind was different in the fall. It blew stronger and faster and swept my hair across my face and around my head. If during the spring it was a sigh, during the fall it was a pant. The smells were also very different. It was more woody and maple-y, as though someone had taken a box full of pine cones and dumped it on my head.

Of course, as a child I never thought of fall like that. I didnít think of death and cold crispness. It was never about strong winds or overwhelming smells. For me, fall was altogether happy. It was the season of pumpkin patches and jack-o-lanterns, hot cocoa and sweet potatoes, Halloween and birthdays. It was the season before snow and after sun. It was the in-between season. The season of rest and rejuvenation. Everything seemed to be calmer during the fall, slower, even, at times. It was the only time of the year that my mother would slow down in the middle of our morning drive to school and say to me, "Wow, isnít the world beautiful?"

And I would always nod my head and say, "Yes. Yes it is."

I grew up an only child in a small family. Despite the common misconception that being an only child is the most ideal situation, when I was younger, I found myself constantly yearning for someone to play with. There was a particular fall when I had just moved into a new house. All my friends no longer lived near me, so it was nearly impossible to schedule a play date. I had been sitting around all day with no one but my mother to keep me company. Iím not suggesting that time with my mother was unpleasant, it was simply boring.

After a few loud sighs and slight whining, my mother looked up from her book and suggested that I go outside. With another grumble and a few stomps, I made my way to the backyard. The backyard was a desert of dry grass and intense loneliness. A plastic bag bounced across the yard like tumbleweed. The dry, dead leaves were scooped up into a pile in the very middle of the yard. I trudged my way towards it.

Angrily, I gave it a small kick. A tiny mushroom of dead leaves exploded into the air. Distracted, I did it again. Another explosion. I accidently stepped on a leaf. A loud crunch shot through the empty air. I stepped on another leaf. Another crunch. Soon I was taking large steps around the rim of the pile of leaves. Crunch, crunch, crunch. I giggled to myself. Then I had the most spectacular idea. I pushed the leaves that had been separated from the pile back into place. I took a few steps back. I was about to experience a liberation that millions of children have certainly experienced before me. It was a grand occasion. With a deep breath, I broke into a run and jumped.

The leaves burst into the air and slowly came fluttering down like a million red, orange, and yellow umbrellas. I sat in the center watching the leaves twirl and spin in the air, dancing around as though they were talented ballerinas. I laughed.

To the displeasure of my mother, I was found destroying leaf-piles every year after that. Fall may signal the time for change and the end of life, but it also portrays liberation and renewal. It is the time that, yes, things end, but things also begin. Leaves, I find, are like people. They live out their lives doing what they are meant to do, and when they have finished serving their purpose, they slowly drift away. Every leaf is different, and some leaves are meant to stay longer than others. But in the same way, every leaf is important and beautiful. Fall is a time to appreciate life and all that it offers you. We, as people, are always in a rush to get something done or to be somewhere else that we donít realize that things are continuously changing whether we stop to enjoy it or not. Maybe, just maybe, fall is the time to stop and smell the roses, or in this case, the leaves.

Read other articles by Angela Tongohan