For years I had wanted to head into the mountains to see the leaves change during the last couple of weeks in September, only to be disappointed by realizing I had a show or tech rehearsal to run that weekend. After hearing for years that I should go see the green aspen leaves morph to orange, rust, and yellow, I am determined I will see this spectacle, tech rehearsal or not. On this specific occasion, my friend Caitlin invites me to join her on a drive to Kenosha Pass one cool Sunday afternoon in September. But this time it’s more than just Caitlin and me as her mom, Nan, dad, Mark, and three family dogs, Peaches (a Pug), Gypsy (a mini-Aussie), and Harpo (a Corgi) join us. The backseat of Caitlin’s car is packed with family members, a XM Radio station featuring hits from the 1970s, and plenty of humor. My life these days is packed as full as Caitlin’s backseat: I’m taking graphic design classes, working full-time, keeping up on multiple projects, and somehow managing to spend time with friends when I can. Hearing an occasional bark from the backseat stops my mind wandering over my to-do list and reminds me to look out the window and see the what I’ve been missing.
Once we’re out of the car and walking along the trail, I peer up at the aspens with golden leaves above us and think of how much it made my dad smile to see their splendor. It’s safe to assume I once came to visit this path as a little girl, but if so, my memory of it has faded. Trekking along, it seems a different landscape unfolds along the path as the aspens take on various heights. In some parts of the path the trees tower above us. Other times a clearing provides a view down into South Park, a town notorious for the popular cartoon show. Following the various paths, we manage to satisfy our curiosity as well as the needs of each dog. Peaches is happy to be by Nan’s side while Caitlin is careful to comfort Gypsy’s fear of other dogs and I hold onto Harpo who insists on being the leader of the pack.
On the way back to Caitlin’s car, Mark takes Gypsy while I offer to take Peaches and Harpo so Caitlin and Nan can head to the bathroom before we leave. Taking a few steps down the road, Peaches refuses to leave Nan’s side and her collar slips off her neck. I call after Peaches and run, but she’s already many steps ahead of me as Harpo pulls me in the opposite direction trying to catch up with Gypsy who has taken his lead. I catch up with Peaches and put her collar back on, but it isn’t long after that Peaches maneuvers the same trick and I’m back to chasing her in one direction while Harpo pulls me in the other direction, unhappy he’s no longer #1. This happens several times until both dogs are on leashes pulling me in opposite directions while cars attempt to drive around my fiasco. How I look right now is no different than how I feel about my current state. On one leash my responsibilities pull me back to the present while my future ambitions on another leash pull me into the unknown. All I can do at this point is laugh at myself, even though I’m ready to lose my patience with both dogs.
Luckily, my patience pays off and I’m back in the car with all family members ready to return home. Unexpectedly, Gypsy crawls into my lap and finds comfort with me in the passenger seat. As her blue eyes fade and fall asleep, I hope that among the sometimes hectic parts of our journey, she saw the beauty of the fall leaves arriving, ready for change. Like the green leaves now changing to shades of autumnal orange and red, I know that a part of me is changing and falling away, ready for the challenges and adventures that lie ahead.