Red and Yellow and Hope and Fear


Well-Known Member
Reaction score
Red and Yellow and Hope and Fear
By Bobby Neal Winters

Last year was a year without ambivalence, and the seasons made themselves know with a vengeance. Winter was winter, spring was spring, and summer was dang-sure summer. Then autumn came along, and everything was all right. But this year has been different. By the time a season has made up its mind what it’s supposed to be like, it’s been time for the next one. It’s been fall for a few weeks now, and it’s hard to tell what it holds for us. The future is murky, but we look for signs around us.

Last year’s autumn was glorious, as the trees put on a tremendous show, one tree turning red as if bursting aflame catching its neighbor which burned yellow. Soon whole streets were ablaze, and then the leaves all fell, leaving pools of color like an evening dress around a lady’s ankles.

I’ve not yet seen that this year. The yellows are seeping in toward the veins of a few leaves, and the reds and sneaking in from the corners. They don’t seem to know what to do, like a new acolyte who lights a candle on the altar for the first time and looks toward the minister. Was that right? Was that okay? Everything seems tentative.

I am at once hopeful and fearful. I hope that the leaves will turn with a glory whose memory will carry use through the naked winter, but there is fear that the leaves will go to surrender with the first rain following the first cold snap. We like to do what we can to control our environment, to ensure our outcomes.

In this part of the country, where the Midwest meets the South and the Southwest, the men are men. The idea of being moved by the aesthetics of the autumn leaves is not a part of our stereotype. At my noon club, we just happened to be a table of men last Tuesday, and one fellow was explaining with good humor the difficulties of extracting a hundred-pound maple from the trunk of a Ford product. It turns out it’s not as easy as you might think, but it sounds like it would be fun to watch.

Other men around the table were nodding their heads and smiling at the shared experience. Details were shared about difficulties in planting and which species of tree to choose for which color.
These men are artists who paint with trees.

Planting a tree is an act of hope. We hope that it grows, and we hope that we live to see our efforts pay off for many a fall. There is a vision of children playing beneath the tree, of a girl leaned against it reading a book, of a boy trying to climb it, while we are yet living, but also of this continuing while we are yet dust.

Whether or not this will happen is beyond our control. There are things we can do to maximize our probability of success, but there is nothing we can do to ensure it. Some things are for God alone, and the things we are sure of are sometimes the things that scare us the most.

We don’t know what the leaves will do this fall, but by January every trace of uncertainty will be gone. There might be things which are now causing me a great deal of anxiety, but I do know there is a “beyond,” that is to say a point beyond which my anxiety will be gone. My hope is that I don’t have to wait “to sleep with my fathers,” as the Bible puts it, before that happens.
On the other hand, the worst thing you can do with time is to wish it were passed so that your troubles would be over. True, the troubles will disappear, but so does the time. While troubles return, time never does. Time goes on a one way street, and troubles come around on a merry-go-round.

Meanwhile, I have only this moment. I look out my window, and there is a little more yellow in the leaves than yesterday and maybe a little more red, too.

(Bobby Winters is a professor of mathematics, writer, and speaker. You may contact him at or visit his webpage at )
Oh, another Canadian here !
Hi Kaldayen ! Glad to meet you. :)

Nice piece, Bobby. The beauty of seasons and our intimate feelings.

By the way, I'm curious to find out how your struggle with the administration of the university ended.

It's not yet over. That anxiety is what I refer to in this piece. Writing is excellent therapy. :)
I hope it will end soon and like you wish to.

Nature is also a very good therapeute, so here you have the colors of autumn in Canada for you :


  • toamna.jpg
    25 KB · Views: 247