A voice says, “Cry!” And I said,[c] “What shall I cry?” All flesh is grass, and all its beauty[d] is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. (Isaiah 40:6-8, ESV)
As we approach winter and the Holiday season, we give a tribute to this wonderful season we are leaving called autumn or fall. In a way, both scientifically and psychologically, it shows a shift from outer to inner beauty, just like people. First of all, in the fall, chlorophyll (the molecules that make plants green; the “men at work” for photosynthesis) is robbed from the leaves with help from its own biological clock (detecting shorter days), and pigments providing yellow, orange, red, etc., surface. The leaves thereby show their true colors.
If you could compare it to human beings, as people age, physical strength plummets (just as the chlorophyll is absorbed from the leaves). And the youthful “outer” beauty typically observed in the teens, the 20s, and (at least a good part of) the 30s, shifts to an “inner” beauty that ages like fine wine through middle and old age. Human middle age (as manifest chiefly in the 40s and 50s decades), is that “bridge” between youth and age. Looks aren’t as important as character by that point. (Since leaves are just plant organs, the closest parallel is to change color). If looks dominate in young adulthood, and character in one’s golden years, middle age is kind of an amalgam of the two, though a progressive one.
OK, we mentioned shorter days, which, while often blamed for depression as manifest in SAD and such, will reverse come the winter solstice, the official astronomical end of autumn. (Meteorologists tell us it ends November 30.) The same is true for the summer solstice; light declines in both summer and fall, so “autumn” leaves can be observed in August, July, or even occasionally, June. These are in decreasing order of count, and increasing order of day length. May and June, when leaves are at a younger state of their “adult life,” are probably the greenest of months. (July and August are hotter only because of a “seasonal lag,” but that’s for another post).
However, thanks to the shorter days, you don’t have to wake up so early to add another beauty to the picture: the rising sun! In June, where I live in Philadelphia, the sun rises earliest (around June or so) around 5:30 AM. If there were no DST, it would be (yikes!) 4:30 AM. (You can thank Ben Franklin for that shift; he originally proposed it). Now, in mid-to-late November, it’s about 6:45. Due to the increase in light in summer in polar or sub-polar regions, e.g., Russia, Scandinavia, Alaska, parts of Canada, etc., and during our winter, Antarctica, I wonder how they could ever get to sleep. They say New York City never sleeps, but I wonder about Anchorage, Fairbanks, Reykjavik, Oslo, Stockholm, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Moscow, and countless other cities with few hours of summer darkness (NOT the case with NYC), can. On the other hand, the do have plenty of winter darkness!
Anyway, sunrises show that every day is new, God is behind it all, and he beautifully says “good morning” using his Master Palette. And on an annual scale, once spring comes, it represents the Easter message quite well. So, while I’ll discuss that more then, suffice it to say that the combined beauty of the sun rising and the leaves dropping shows balance, beauty, and new beginnings. As the scripture says above, we all decline in our physical beauty (and following then, die), but the word of God promises us eternity with Him, wherein earthly representations like sunrises and autumn leaves are no comparison to seeing God and his beauty directly.
But for now, enjoy your early-morning walks when autumn is still here in 2015! After all, there is no guarantee of tomorrow. It’s also great I plan to study a double major of Biology & Geoscience in my U of choice after finishing community college, giving more insight into subjects included, like astronomy, meteorology, and botany. In the next blog post will twist this to sunrise’s evening beauty rival, otherwise known as sunset.