I heard some ministry in meeting once, and it went like this: the true color of the leaf is only revealed when the chlorophyll drains away in the fall. This means that leaves aren’t naturally green, they’re green because they’re filled with chlorophyll. The word is Greek, meaning “green leaf”. I have no idea if it’s true, but I’m going to run with it.
Chlorophyll is one of those scientific phenomena that make me believe in God more. I feel the same way about loudspeakers. Both are utterly miraculous to me. Chlorophyll is a green pigment which is essential to photosynthesis, the process by which plants convert light into energy. Without it, there would be no life on earth, period, end of story. And each spring, as the earth tilts towards the sun, this amazing pigment surges up through dormant plants and reaches for the sky. Then it makes love with light. And everything breaths and grows.
But it’s the fall that has my attention now. Like many of us, I sense the fall as the beginning of things, attached as I am to the academic calendar. So the fall colors have always seemed to me to be a celebration of the year to some, the one that goes from September 1st to August 31st. I have never associated fall with things dying. I remember fall trips to the Farm in New Hampshire, just when school was really taking off, romances were beginning, and the holiday trifecta was on its way: Halloween-Thanksgiving-Christmas. So I think of these blazing leaves as banners. And yet, it must be said, it’s only because I know they will return in the spring, that I love them in the fall.
So these are the true colors. Perhaps this is speaking to my condition now because I am entering the autumn of my own life. I will be fifty in two years. Perhaps I am waxing poetic about the leaves because I sense the authenticity age brings, when we are done with all the reaching and the growing. So paradoxically we emerge into the bright and astonishing people we have been all along, hidden beneath the priorities of creation. They seem to curl up and relax as they let go, as they drop slowly to the earth which bore them, traveling occasionally on surprising journeys carried by gusts of wind. Perhaps the glorious colors announce: despair not! There is new life to come!
And yes, Cyndie Lauper gets a shout out. It’s one of those sappy songs I really like. Someone does a cover of it that makes me cry whenever I hear it. So, don’t be afraid . . . to let them show . . . your true colors.