I love the fall and how the leaves change from deep greens to reds and orange and gold. This natural riot of color takes place wherever there are trees with leaves and there’s almost no place better to watch the leaves change than in the Northeast. This part of the four-seasoned ritual of life attracts tourists from far and wide and tugs at me to make a special trip to our home in the mountains there. And this reminds me every year about the natural changes that are a constant in our lives.
Ever wonder why and how the leaves change colors?
• As summer ends and autumn comes, the days get shorter and shorter. This is how the trees "know" to begin getting ready for winter. The trees will begin to rest and live off the food they stored during the summer. The green chlorophyll disappears from the leaves. As the bright green fades away, we begin to see yellow and orange colors. Small amounts of these colors have been in the leaves all along - we didn’t them in the summer because they were covered up by the green chlorophyll. The bright reds and purples we see in leaves are made mostly in the fall. In some trees, like maples, glucose is trapped in the leaves after photosynthesis stops. Sunlight and the cool nights of autumn cause the leaves to turn this glucose into a red color. It’s the combination of all these things that makes the beautiful fall colors we enjoy each year.
Ever hear of Thomas Cole’s The Voyage of Life series? In 1840 he did this series of paintings that represent an allegory of the four stages, or seasons, of human life:
• In childhood, the infant glides from a dark cave into a rich, green landscape.
• As a youth, the boy takes control of the boat and aims for a shining castle in the sky.
• In manhood, the adult relies on prayer and religious faith to sustain him through rough waters and a threatening landscape.
• Finally, the man becomes old and the angel guides him to heaven across the waters of eternity.
In each painting, accompanied by a guardian angel, the voyager rides the boat on the River of Life. The landscape, corresponding to the seasons of the year, plays a major role in telling the story. And in those paintings you can clearly see the leaves changing colors in the season (manhood) that represents the fall of the voyager’s life.
So what’s this mean to you and me? Things change! Always! Life is full of changes and most of us are creatures of habit. And because we don’t know what’s next, we tend to cling to what we already have and know and are comfortable with. We reminisce about and cherish the past because it’s familiar, it’s already happened and we know how the movie ends. And while that’s generally true, it’s the half of the story that we tend to recognize. The other half is that the things we learn from the past should continually be updating our knowledge of life, and how to process the new things we see and experience, and how to better understand the meaning of who and what we are – that’s the harder part of the story to accept.
With each passing season, and the changes that occur, we need to grow and become wiser. And that wisdom should create the stuff we need to constantly be better, to do the things we’re called upon to do each day better, and to help those around us to become better. But you won’t learn anything or get better if you’re not open to the changes – natural or man-made – that occur every day.
I wish you could join me here at our camp to look across the lake at the beauty that is unfolding. The scene is constant; the colors let me know that time is marching on. On the one hand I could worry that the seasons of my life are marching on, or, on the other, I could be challenged by the things I’ve learned this year that will help me to be wiser and more thoughtful in the future. One stunts natural growth; the other invigorates a sense of wonder about the world around us and the endless possibilities that potentially exist. The choice is ours. And while these leaves will begin to fade and fall soon, the inspiration that they trigger should last a lifetime. That’s the voyage of life, and I’m sure glad to be on it!
My message this week is about being inspired to dream about improving our lives:
“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” -C.S. Lewis
Clive Staples Lewis (1898 – 1963), commonly referred to as C. S. Lewis and known to his friends and family as "Jack", was a British novelist, academic, medievalist, literary critic, essayist, lay theologian and Christian apologist from Ireland.
Got any new dreams today? Not the ones you try to remember and think about when you wake, but the kind that have you excited to try something really new. Everyone can dream, but not everyone has the curiosity, energy, courage and stamina to try to attempt and achieve their dreams. Most want things to be smooth and easy, with no surprises or challenges that can potentially make you look silly. Fact is, without those challenges or knowing how to recover from looking silly you’ll never get to experience what it is to learn from trying something new. You can tell the ones who are into this – the twinkle in their eye, the bounce in their step, the way they carry themselves. If that’s you, and you’ll know if it is, then set another goal today, dream another dream today and make a pledge to be creative and innovative today. Go ahead – you’re never too old!
Friday, September 30, 2011
at 5:24 AM