True Colors

Last weekend Aimee and I drove to my cousins wedding. It was a 6 hour drive straight north to the Canadian border. It was the perfect time of year to make this drive. When we left Connecticut, the trees were just starting to show their fall colors; just hints of orange and yellow around the edges. As we drove north, especially as we drive through the mountains, we found ourselves in the full swing of fall colors. We were treated to bright oranges and vibrant reds growing out of fields of lush green grass. It was really beautiful. By the time we got to “The North Country” as they call it, some trees had even started shedding their leaves. The drive was like being in a time machine, 4 weeks of fall packed into a short six hour drive.

For those who know me, you know that sometimes I’m a bit of a geek (ok fine, those who know me know I’m almost always a geek). So while we were driving and watching the leaves changing colors literally in front of our eyes, I started to wonder, what makes leaves change colors? I’m knew it had something to do with the decreased daylight, and I’m sure that it’s something I was supposed to learn in 7th grade science class, but the details of exactly what goes on inside the leaf as it changes colors had escaped me. Fortunately, Google was there to answer all my questions. The answer I found was really very cool.

It turns out that leaves are filled with all different pigments all the time. Yellows, oranges, reds and greens exist all the time in each leaf. The green pigment is associated with the chemicals in leaves responsible for photosynthesis and turning the bright summer sunlight into energy. So the green pigment is the most prevalent throughout the summer. But as the days get shorter, the sun’s rays get less intense. Less energy is being made, so the leaves stop producing the green pigments. So it turns out the colors of the leaves don’t change, instead in the fall we are simply seeing the true color of the leaves show though.

I’ve been thinking about this all week long. How we all have our public facade that we show to the world. A version of ourselves that we emphasize so much that often that’s all people get to see of us. I don’t mean this as a negative judgment. I don’t “blame” the trees for favoring the energy giving green colors all summer long. But I sure do appreciate the opportunity to see the true colors of the leaves in the autumn. Only then can we really experience the full beauty that the trees have to offer. So I asked myself, what can we learn from the trees? What colors would show through if like the trees, we shed the facade that we so often walk through life showing the world? So that’s my practice for this week. To take a hint from nature and consider what colors I have hiding beneath my skin.

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