Embracing change can be a tumultuous journey. Whether it brings positivity or challenges, excitement or unpredictability, there’s an inherent unease that accompanies the shifting landscapes of our lives. The resistance to unfamiliar territories, be it a new job, a different diet, a fresh residence, or a change in location, is a universal sentiment. This hesitancy is akin to the trepidation witnessed in my own children as they navigated through various grade school experiences, facing the unknowns of new classrooms and teachers.
Fortunately, nature serves as a reassuring reminder that stepping into a new chapter of our lives is not something to dread.
At present, trees across the country are commencing their transition to the next phase. The vibrant green leaves will soon yield to the characteristic hues of autumn. While we are aware of the positive impact of trees on mental health, the current season feels like a generous bestowal of boundless joy from forests. I’m not alone in my eagerness to savor these moments.
The phenomenon now dubbed “leaf-peeping” has evolved into a lucrative form of tourism in the United States. According to a researcher from Appalachian State University, fall foliage tourism contributes over $30 billion to local economies across 24 states in the eastern half of the country. In Maine alone, visitors seeking the beauty of fall colors make up a substantial percentage of the annual tourist influx. Despite the challenges posed by climate change in predicting the peak foliage period, people persist in attempting to forecast it. Tourism leaders in the Smoky Mountains, for instance, have released an annual fall foliage prediction map—an interactive tool using weather science data to assist travelers in planning when to capture the breathtaking autumn scenery, county by county.
The grandeur of trees during this season invites us to pause and marvel at the spectacle.
Part of the allure of foliage lies in its temporariness. As branches shed their leaves, the photographic frenzy for social media ceases. Yet, even when the seasons transition and nostalgia sets in, trees gracefully accept their evolution.
Beyond the flamboyance of fall colors and the slowing down of internal processes during dormancy, trees continue to be vital to the ecosystem. Their fallen leaves break down with the assistance of bacteria and fungi, enriching the soil with essential nutrients for growth. Insects find refuge in their bark, becoming sustenance for other wildlife seeking shelter. The robust roots stabilize the soil, preventing erosion from winter snowmelt. A tree devoid of leaves is not devoid of life. Whether adorned with fall foliage or not, trees play a crucial role year-round.
Caring for and planting trees is not just an act of environmental stewardship; it’s a commitment to preserving ecosystems, supporting wildlife, and contributing to the enduring reminder that growth is inherently beautiful.
Dan Lambe, CEO of the Arbor Day Foundation, the largest nonprofit organization dedicated to tree planting, emphasizes the profound impact of safeguarding and cultivating trees.