My bright yellow canopy is hard to miss among the forest's mosaic of reds, oranges, bronzes and plums.
I stand out among the crowd this time of year. I'm the brightest star of fall's color show, and I shine light on the season's otherwise cool, drab atmosphere.
In fact, I'm one of the forest's most prized possessions all year round. You see, us birch trees stand out even below the canopy, where our unique bark features differentiate us from the rest of the pack.
But my delicate foliage is something to really admire, particularly in autumn. Once the days get shorter and the temperatures begin to cool, the green chlorophyll in my leaves begins to disappear. Tiny patches of yellows and golds take the place of my lustrous green hues as the carotenoids in my leaves shine through: the sunrise of autumn.
I'm happy to brighten up the season. My neighbors' hues complement one another in panoramic views of the canopy, but my colors truly pop. I catch glimpses of young, wondering eyes as they pass me by along the nearby trail. They continue strolling along, squeezed between their parents' warm hands, as they follow my leaves with their eyes until it hurts to look back much longer.
And even when my canopy begins to diminish, the haphazard patches of yellows and golds that remain continue to turn heads. People of all ages walk along the trail to simply enjoy fall color while it lasts. However, I find them particularly fascinated by the bright yellows that stick out among other colors. Just like the warm rays of sunshine they absorb on a cool, crisp fall morning, I brighten their day.
But all good things must come to an end. The sun's rays need rest.
Unexpectedly, a gust of wind rises up beneath what's left of my canopy and suddenly it's off - the very last leaf floating in air. It dances on the cool breeze as it gradually drifts closer to its destiny: the soft, worn trail that lines the forest I've called home for years.
And then, as if to mirror the sunset - and closing - of autumn, the tiny leaf slows to a dead stop as it brushes the ground beneath me, but only to settle there for a second until a slight breeze blows it away.
I pretend it's the final addition to the yellow brick road as it mingles with the golden bronze hues that scatter the ground beneath me.