Where I live is arguably the most beautiful place in Canada this time of year. The Gatineau Hills in Quebec, just north of Ottawa comes alive around Thanksgiving (CAN). After the long weekend in September, the cold air drifts in. It is noticeable first at night and in the early morning before the sun has a chance to do it’s work. It is this cold air that inspires the leaves to shed it’s lush green shades for the most incredible colour palette nature can paint. And I am blessed to be greeted by this every time I return home.

This weekend, thousands upon thousands will invade our otherwise quiet town to walk through the national park and immerse themselves in this living canvas. They will walk endlessly throughout the vast hiking trails and many will find themselves at the famed Mackenzie King Estate ruins. They will take pictures among the pillars to be used for Christmas cards and wedding photos, back-dropped by this brilliant display. (It was in this park I asked my wife to marry me 18 years ago. I recognize now this was a far more intelligent move than I was aware at the time, for who could say no surrounded by such beauty?)

And it is brilliant. No two trees are alike. Although a cluster of trees can be anchored in the same soil, drawing from the same underground stream, they yield remarkably different shades of yellows, oranges, reds and brilliant salmons. Even branches on the same tree will vary in colour and shade. Truly stunning. It really does bring the best out of people, and it evokes joy and good-will in those who share in it together.

This week as I was driving home, noticing the change in the trees every day, it reminded me how similar friendships are in our lives. I reflected on recent connections with different friends; either over coffee or with Skype or by phone, and realized how much colour they all bring to my life. Yes, some of them are more colourful than others, but all enrich my life in some way. Each friend brings out something different in me; sometimes creativity, sometimes laughter, sometimes encouragement, sometimes a completely new perspective, and sometimes challenge. Sometimes all at the same time. This is so important, especially during the transition of seasons in our lives. Change can be unsettling to say the least, but the colourful splash of friendship can offer brevity and hope as we go from season to season.

This amazing spectacle of the Gatineau Hills is sadly an intensely short one. The peak time of colour is normally only a couple of weeks at best. Soon after the Thanksgiving weekend, the bright leaves start to fall with increasing measure, leaving behind the grey mass of limbs and branches that always were there but hidden. Those that walk the park trails then look mainly down at the ground to take in the piles of colour instead of looking up at the sky. It is yet another sign that the next season is on it’s way. Good friendships fortunately can inspire us for much longer, and in some cases for a lifetime if we are so lucky. So, the next time you see a splash of colour in nature wherever you happen to be, thank God for the good friends in your life. And choose to be same for those that call you friend.

“The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense.” Proverbs 27:9