What is Changing?

by | Nov 3, 2023 | General, Plants, Reflections & Celebrations

As Aspen trees valiantly change colors and lose their leaves, I notice my curiosity stirring in shades of yellow.

The golden glow of autumn leaves is due to the presence of carotenoids, pigments that assist in photosynthesis.  Carotenoids are yellow, orange, or red pigments that are always present in the leaves, but are not noticed until fall because of all the green chlorophyl that is usually dominant in leaves.  Carotenoids absorb green-blue wavelengths, whereas chlorophyl absorb more blue and red wavelengths as well as moderate amounts of the other colors, with the exception of green. 

As I sit under the golden umbrella of yellow leaves in the fall, I realize how much I love the particular angle of lighting that seems to give many of us that cozy nudge to bake, go within, cultivate introspection, read a good book, listen to the Charlie Brown soundtrack, and stir our sense of nostalgia.  

What if these “autumn moods” and tendencies that seem to be triggered by the change in lighting could be compared to the changes of photosynthesis in deciduous plants in the fall? 

Studies reveal that our hormones have cyclic seasonal patterns.  For example, we may produce more thyroxine in the fall, which is involved with metabolism, digestion, functioning of the heart and muscles, as well as bone health and brain development.  While growth hormones seem to be produced more in the winter. 

Perhaps the seasonal prompt to slow down and seek comfort is an adaptive response to the fast-approaching winter for those of us that live in temperate regions with four seasons.  Regardless of what recent studies show, it seems that we are all very much affected by the seasonal transitions emotionally and even physiologically, perhaps some more than others. 

The seasonal cycles of the temperate northwest are very important to tune into.  Especially for those of us that keep a garden or who attempt to eat seasonally, and or locally.  Being attuned to the natural cycles, such as seasons, is a fundamental part of life and can bring a sense of health and harmony as we balance our lifestyles from season to season.  The seasons lend us a rhythm to dance to that gives us something to prepare for, look forward to, and to grow from as each season teaches us something different each year.  These cycles can remind us that it isn’t natural to expect someone to always perform perfectly and consistently all the time.  Or even to always feel a certain way every day.  It is actually natural to have cycles of rest, activity and variability.  Not only is this more sustainable, but it is also more efficient, and it feels better! 

There are many ways to attune ourselves to the season of autumn. Of course, as a gardener, this is the classic harvest season.  But even if you are not a gardener, you can always go for a walk and collect a basket of leaves or metaphorically harvest the fruits of your labor, studies, or intentions that you’ve been working on up to this season.  Sometimes I like to do both.  While collecting beautiful shapes and colors of leaves in the fall, I can imagine that I’m receiving the bounty of all of the efforts I have put forth to manifest my goals and aspirations.  Not that I am ever finished with this process.  Autumn just seems like a good time of year to acknowledge what I have done so far and what I can celebrate at this point.  The harvest season can inspire us in many ways in this regard.

What changes do you notice this autumn and what are you harvesting?  How are you acknowledging the seasonal nudge of fall to start preparing for winter?