I miss the leaves in Autumn. I miss how they change and seemingly have a mind of their own when they will go from green to gold or red and shades in between. Living in South Florida, we don’t get dramatic announcements that the seasons are changing. I could be cute though and tell you that we know the season is upon us as we watch the car carriers’ park in the middle of the road outside our gated communities and slowly shed their cargo onto the road below. They are of many colors and shapes but not quite up to comparison with a Sugar Maple or Black Tupelo.
There are other hints as well. There are fewer reservations available at your favorite restaurant; the white holiday lights strung around Banyan and Palm trees, outlining their trunks and branches are slowly turning on as the days grow shorter; all the multi-colored annuals are bedded and sprinklers are furiously making sure that they root and take. But they don’t equate with the drama of the sun-filtered reds, gold, yellow and oranges of a tree standing proud against a deep blue sky.
But I’m not complaining and I’m not dissing Florida. I love where I live and am blessed to be here. I believe that the pervasive and sometimes oppressive humidity is actually Ponce De Leon’s fountain of youth and no matter what the mirror tells me, it keeps my skin young. I believe that the understated modifications that mark the changing seasons teach us something about how most change occurs, subtly, delicately, one step at a time. I believe that each of us can affect that change – we just have to realize how crucial it is that we learn it doesn’t happen without us.
Unfortunately change/progress isn’t as predictable as the seasons. I’m thinking about the equal rights ordinance that was repealed in Houston this week. Voters rejected the measure that would have barred discrimination against the LGBT community. The campaign was down and dirty. They appealed to our baser instincts claiming sexual predators would have access to women’s bathrooms and locker rooms. The failure to protect people from racial, ethnic and gender discrimination puts Houston in the position of being the only major American city without a broad anti-discrimination policy. The line from Apollo 13 applies here: “Houston, we have a problem.”
The greatness of our country is that we have been a people of many colors, many backgrounds, different ethnicities and different sexual orientations. We didn’t always recognize that and we often ignored the rights of those whom we perceived as other, but slowly, surely, one foot in front of the other, we are coming to see that the tree has many branches and that some trees actually have leaves of variant hues and shades on the same trunk.
The political commentators tell us that the take away from Houston’s vote is that turnout counts. And the people who were afraid and misinformed turned out in great numbers to vote. The people who want rainbow leaves to be treated with respect and dignity did not get the message. Change happens – but it is up to us to make sure that the leaves reach the ground and nourish the growth of tomorrow.