The deciduous cycle in trees and us

Published 9:31 pm Wednesday, December 4, 2019

By QuaWanna Bannarbie

A group of deciduous trees in a large backyard in Virginia make a lovely family. Mom and Dad Deciduous are mature trees who have watched each other grow in that same yard for years. They have been together for so long that they recognize the arrival of each new season just by noticing how they respond to the environmental changes around them. Mom Deciduous is a sycamore tree, and her companion is a mighty oak. They both are healthy trees.

On an early November morning, Mom Deciduous notices several of her leaves have created a lovely skirt around her trunk. This beautiful array is not new to her, but it has happened a bit earlier in the season than usual. Dad Deciduous notices the change, but he is not as alarmed as the lovely hardwood. He, being an oak, still has several of his leaves. “No need to be ashamed,” he says to his spouse. “I am here with you through your seasonal change.”

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While Mom Deciduous is having difficulty adjusting through the period of losing her leaves, Dad Deciduous is faithful to remind her how beautiful she is in her hues of gold and bronze. He understands that although this season of transition is uncomfortable, that it is also necessary. During the autumn months, the trees are more transparent as they shed the foliage that covers their bark. Those fallen leaves initiate a period of vulnerability and connection. The trees are vulnerable, because the preservation process that happens within a tree during autumn can and will be impacted by the coming months of winter. The connectivity takes place because as fallen leaves decompose, they feed future generations of plant life. It also allows the surrounding environment to see the tree for its bare self.

When their leaves fall to the ground, Mom and Dad Deciduous are forced to experience the real quality and character of the trees that they are.

Nature is a teacher. I did not purpose to find a story about a tree couple this week. I am not the first writer to relate the human life to the seasons of the year. But I am open to receive and learn from my surrounding environment. I am also aware that when nature is your classroom, we embark on a study of human society facilitated by the Creator himself.

I took notice of a pile of fallen leaves forming in my front yard this week, and it revealed something to me about relationships. As trees withstand many seasons in their lifetime, their maturity is evidenced by their survival through changes. Despite sometimes heavy precipitation and harsh conditions in the year, the trees are still standing. I thought about how much we can learn from our tree neighbors when it comes to enduring change in our lives.

We encounter people experiencing change every single day of their lives in marriage and family and professional relationships. The environment affects them in ways that may not be as visible as color changes in tree leaves. We dare say to them, “You are not who you used to be.” We don’t always extend grace to them in the passing of their seasons.

Yet, we watch the trees in autumn and comment on the beauty of their transition. We understand that there is a necessary fight for survival that is taking place underneath that tree’s noticeable adjustment. We adore that process year after year. Tourists travel miles just to witness the beautiful arrays of color in the trees in Shenandoah National Park and upstate New York.

But I suspect that you don’t have to travel far to witness an autumn. You and I are as deciduous as trees. We go through things that leave our character and identity bare to the world. We are not always going to experience each other in the same way. If we are truly growing, there will be days when we need to extend grace to one another. Perhaps we need to see our loved ones and our co-workers and our fellow man as radiating that same necessary gold and bronze as we pass through our seasons. Because the true treasure is that we get through autumn to experience the blooms in the spring together.


QuaWanna Bannarbie is an adjunct professor of Nonprofit Leadership and Management with Indiana Wesleyan University, National and Global. Her children attend Suffolk Public Schools. Connect with her via or via Twitter @QNikki_Notes.