Of course finding the trailhead wasn’t an easy task for me. But like with the road of life, a wrong turn is seldom completely wrong. Although it wasn’t the campground I had been seeking, the parking lot afforded us this spectacular view.
Tucker and I trekked through forest and meadow for two miles, enjoying the serenity of just being with nature. Today I got the best of both of my favorite locations: the autumn leaves of New England, and the rolling fog of the San Francisco Bay area. The fog rolled across the trail, taking no heed to our existence, as if having a mind of its own, meandering on its way to some event we were not invited to.
As we reached the peak, a straight up hike reminiscent of Dante’s Peak in Griffith Park, most of the fog had passed through. The clouds lifted slightly, and the world around us became visible as if the mists of Avalon had parted to reveal the mystical land.
“No. It’s still just fog. One or two levels up is a great, but anything beyond that and you’re in the clouds.”
And so Tucker and I went one flight up, Tucker safely right in front of me. I felt the sway of the staircase and was more than content to enjoy the view from the first landing. On this side of the mountain, the mists still kept the landscape backstage, behind its curtain.
As I looked out at the glory of Nature’s season this weekend, it finally hit me why I'm so attached to it. It's not just because I began life at this time. It's not just because the first thing my olfactory nerves sensed on this planet was the smell of autumn leaves. It’s because Fall is the ultimate crossroads.
I am at the campground host at the crossroads of life—for many people and dogs, I greet and spend time with them as they chose which path to take next. The changing of the leaves is Nature’s greatest transition, her most prominent crossroads. This is where and when she shows how it all comes together—past and future. The leaves that sprout in springtime come to maturity in the summer, acting as solar panels, soaking in nutrients for the trees. But as the earth shies away from the sun, the kiss of frost upon the leaves transforms them into a brilliant blanket of color across the hillsides. They give one final performance against the skyline before they take the next step of their journey. As the winter winds start to blow, the leaves take their bow and fall to earth.
But it’s not over. Fall is not the end of a leaf's story. They cover the earth, the earth with seeds of the next generation buried deep. The leaves protect the hope of the next year, covering them in the earth from the cold and wind, snow and freezing temperatures. Their glossy colors dull only slightly, but their purpose and their journey continues.
Autumn isn’t the end of the journey. It’s the crossroads: a beautiful, brilliant crossroads where form and function shift while the heart remains the same. It reminds us that change isn’t scary; change is majestic and magical. Whether it’s a change of season, or the passing of a year in life, there is nothing to fear. Because we all live on, our purpose changing over time, but our heart remaining the same, blowing in the winds of time to the next place we’re needed.