There are many vivid pictures in our lives that hold moments dear to us. We use cameras not simply as tools, but as maps of our history. Photos allow us to access images of our past, and spark memories of what times were like at those certain points. Reminiscent thoughts  snowball through our minds collecting emotions we once felt and bring them to the surface almost as if we are allowed a glimpse into something that no longer is or ever will be – except in our hearts and minds. These pieces of art collect throughout our lives and connect us to each other, and how we tell the story is completely up to us. I take a lot of pictures whenever I reach a place that inspires me. Colorado boasts many photographic scenes, one of which exists in the heart of fall, when aspen leaves begin their digression into winter’s annual dormancy.

These aspen leaves are the reason I make my way into the mountains at least once every autumn, in hopes that I will find vibrancy in the forests and refreshment in my soul. I search for the angles and instances when moments are rich with invigorating energy, and try as best I can to do them justice with the simplest of cameras. This past month I managed to find the opportunity to spend a night in Steamboat where the colors of fall are unmatched in the many diverse shrubs and trees that span the northern ranges of our state. My girlfriend and I took a drive north of the town and into the Mount Zirkel wilderness where there are many backpacking and hiking trails to explore the vast array of forestland that many people never take the time to see. Places like these should be revered and the seasons should represent more to us than the passage of time, because as humans I feel we have the need to continuously change ourselves into something better.

To walk amongst such bright shades of yellow and orange, swaying with their branches in every step, allows me to feel the release that these trees feel in releasing the weight of their past. Trees grow together, yearning for the same sunlight and stretching out their roots to receive the necessary nutrients in their many years of growth, just as humans do. It teaches me a way to live that not only helps me to forget the mistakes I have made in my past but to truly grow and reach for higher elevations. Change within myself seems quite possible because although these trees are the same ones that existed in years past, they will never bear the same leaf twice, meaning my photographs capture history in action. Not only is change possible, but each picture portrays how change is also beautiful through the change in pigmentation that each leaf experiences as it dies and tumbles to earth, revitalizing soil and giving back to the very being that birthed it.

My girlfriend smiles brightly as she picks leaves of different colors from the earth and I take a picture that weaves them into a portrait of golden hues and subtle oranges. I stare through the misty drizzle and see the rainbows of light as the sun shines fervently through the branches above. We dance together in the rain and the environment surrounds us as if it were our own. I realize this is one of those moments that I will look back on and see as the start of something new in my life. Over the past year, and through this sporadic autumn weather, I understand more of exactly where I want to head in life and the passionate moments I want to continue to experience. I suggest this to anyone having issues letting go of something – take a drive over Guanella Pass, hike the Colorado trail at Kenosha, or spend a night in Steamboat and visit the hot springs. You’ll start to see signs of life anew in things that speak with a language that takes only an open mind to hear and an open heart to understand. You might even want to take a couple photos while you’re up there.

Louie Garramone is an outdoor enthusiast currently living in (and exploring) Golden, Colorado. He enjoys taking his dog, Denali, on preposterous journeys through nature. His massive rock collection sits proudly on the mantle above his fire, where he puts on his reading glasses at night and smokes his tobacco pipe, the creak of the wood floor evident under the rocking chair. Here he reads Thoreau and contemplates society in native times. Follow his Natural Highs with 303, or check out his blog on WordPress.