Monday, September 27, 2010

The Color of Soul

It has been a long time since I have seen autumn come to New Hampshire. For years I have returned for a few days each October at the height of the fall foliage season, but I had forgotten what it was like to see the trees begin to change in September. This year I am daily enjoying the gradual transformation of the forest.

The colors start on the fringes of the trees and work inward. It looks like the trees are frosted with gold. The maples are bright red and orange, ash and birch are yellow, and the oaks are golden. Some smaller bushes and shrubs turn dark red. The pines stay green to add contrast.

There are a few trees that wear their full regal colors early, especially those in the wetlands, as if eager for the autumn to come. When the sky is blue and the sun is bright, it seems like heaven has visited earth for a season.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s lines come to mind: "Earth's crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God, But only he who sees takes off his shoes; The rest sit round and pick blackberries." In autumn all of nature is “afire with God.”

I remember hearing the scientific explanation for the changing colors. The bright colors are the natural pigmentation of the leaves. The fall colors are there all along, but are masked by green chlorophyll in spring and summer. Only when the leaves prepare to fall are the real hues revealed.

As I write this blog post, I am watching a line of cars depart the rural cemetery near our house. I recall that a graveside service is being held today for a dear saint of the church. I knew her in her later years, what they call “the autumn of life.” This woman, who was always lovely and gracious, grew even better as she aged.

This is not always the case. Some people harden with age. In either case, people’s true colors are revealed as the years progress. The difficult times of life harden some people and soften others. Some depart this life in a blaze of beautiful color. Others grow dull and dry.

I hope that I am one of the former. Life is too short to let the inevitable hardships of life rob us of our natural joy. Family and friends are too precious to allow differences to divide us. The spiritual dimension of life is too important to let religious squabbles quench it.

So I will enjoy the autumn colors that transform both landscape and lives. And hope others will see the natural color of my soul.

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