"Hey, you look lonely," yells a bearded man in grey sitting solo on a bench down the street.
I ignore him, focusing instead on the slowly accumulating sweat that my overly warm wardrobe has initiated as I sit cozily in my porch hammock.
Last week, my tights, thick socks and twice-layered tops would have still resulted in me shivering.
It's no news that Knoxville's weather is bipolar, but when it flips between sweat and the chills, knowing what to change into during the foggy conscious of the morning provides difficulty.
Despite the ensuing confusion, the coming and going of seasons is comforting. The promise and the certainty contained in slow moving, yet distinct, change creates rhythm. As work loads pile up and friend networks expand and contract, the notion that I will be wearing tights tomorrow, even if I'm a little overheated, provides self assurance in the continuity of things and our never-ending cycle.
Beauty lies in relentless long-term change, intermittent with day-to-day fluctuation, in the possibility of the sweats and the chills.
In front of me stands an erect tree. He is a simple tree with only one long upward branch. He found no purpose in superfluous diverging branches, just minor, humble arms outstretched.
Meager in size, the tree that stands before me can be viewed deeply. It is possible to see his interior leaves against patches of bark. Towards his core, his inner-most leaves proudly display their photosynthesis and glow in lasting green lush color.
As his leaves pan out, they begin to loose their green luster and gain metamorphic chameleon qualities. Tea green, lime green, yellow-green, transforming into shades of gold, bright yellow and deep orange.
Finally — at his tips, at the edge of his existence, the very last part of him showcases his grand finale. My tree proudly displays a vibrant, deep, lustful red.
The red screams over the green, emphasizing his triumphant change profoundly.
It gives me the chills and then the sweats. It forces men in grey hoodies to sit on benches alone and ponder life — where am I going? What changes must occur in my life?
But my tree isn't unique, nor is the grey hooded man.
Change and the evaluation of change are part of an ongoing existence.
In fact, change is the only certainty. It's comforting to know that every year, we will layer up as trees layer down. That the sweats will always transform into the chills and back again, allowing us time to reminisce and remember.
My tree stands before me, experiencing again the metamorphosis that marks the passage of time.
People shy away from change, especially in terms of rearranging the self, but not my tree; he is here to show us that we should be proud of change, internally and externally, for eternity.
Change is inherent, from hour to hour, day to day, season to season, year to year. My tree will get taller. He might decide to grow out another thick, supporting branch.
It's no coincidence that right before hibernation, changing forces of nature surround us, begging us to shed our skin in order for reconstruction during the cold months ahead.
Connect with a tree, and transform with him. Feel free to watch parts of yourself grow vibrant in shades of red. Then let yourself go as your tree loses leaves. View yourself bare while cuddled up in a warm blanket sweating, surrounded by chilling air. Watch your tree surrender to the comforting cycle. Mimic your tree.
May the beauty of red leaves always jump out in your vision as the world keeps spinning.
Julie Mrozinski is a junior in English. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.