Watch the Leaves: A Senior’s Thoughts on Time

Written by Sophia Klomparens

This fall, I’ve been thinking a lot about autumn leaves. I’ve also been thinking about mock trial. What do these things have in common?

I’m a Washingtonian at heart, born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, and before I came to Hillsdale, I had never experienced real autumn. My first semester, I remember mourning the falling leaves. I grew up with mild, green winters, and to me, Michigan’s golden leaves just meant that the trees were dying and the weather was getting colder. I walked by the fiery trees without ever really looking at them.

I’m also a senior captain on the mock trial team. When I joined the program as a freshman, I was overwhelmed by the adrenaline of competition, the joy of collaboration with a team, and the lasting friendships I formed. I had the naïve sensation that this experience would last forever—that I would never run out of time to compete in this activity that I love.

But I’m a little older now, and maybe a little wiser. Earlier this year, in late September, I walked out the front door and stopped short. The leaves were changing. Gold, orange, and yellow flashed from the trees that grow along my street. The trees were dying, and it was beautiful. I guess it always was, even when I wasn’t paying attention.

When I’m not watching the leaves burst into flame and gently drift down to cover the sidewalk, I’m busy captaining our freshman team. We have three teams this year, two of which are full of returning upperclassmen. The third team is just nine brand new competitors and me, their senior captain.

As a senior, I’m tempted sometimes to focus on the burdens of the rapidly approaching Real World. What’s the point of watching leaves fall or doing mock trial when there are job applications to fill out, graduate programs to research, senior theses to write? 

But whenever I start to think too much about life after college, I spend some time with my freshman teammates, and I remember how to live in the present again. They remind me of myself three years ago—joyful, immortal, living as if their time is unlimited, as if they have all eternity to spend here. They love with reckless abandon. They still don’t know what they want to major in. They have their whole college experience ahead of them.

As for me, the leaves are falling, and everything is about to change. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t beautiful. This time is precious in every sense of the word, and I love the leaves even more because they’re dying. I love these freshmen even more because I’ll be going away soon, just like the leaves.

Watch the leaves and hug your friends, because nothing lasts but love.

Sophia Klomparens, ’21, studies English and Latin. Most days you’ll find her in AJ’s drinking coffee, obsessing over the Aeneid, and listening to unreasonably angsty music. If you ever want to have a passionate discussion about Virgil, let her know—she’s running out of people who will listen.

Published in November 2020

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