Being neither botanist nor dendrologist, I’m not sure that I have an accurate explanation for the phenomenon I’ve witnessed this year in regard to the particular patterns of color on the fallen leaves from the Bradford pear tree at the edge of our horse pasture. I can say this without fear of successful contradiction: they are the most amazing I’ve ever seen.
Typically, the entire leaf gradually turns a deep red color, something like a blend of bronze and burgundy. This year, though, the leaves are mostly brown. Doesn’t sound terribly impressive, does it? But there’s more to the story…
Along the center spine of the leaf is something radically different. On many of the leaves, a smooth abstract pattern of rounded lobes emanates from the middle, often fringed with a thin border of green. The main part of this is red or orange. Even when seen while the leaves are lying on the ground, the colors/patterns are striking. When held up toward a backlighting sun, they are stunning!
The green fringe becomes neon, and the reds/oranges glow as if illuminated. It doesn’t seem even slightly overwrought to apply the term “spectacular.” I’ve lived for nearly seventy years and cannot recall ever seeing anything like this in the annual transition of seasons.
I think it was triggered by two nights of hard freeze just two weeks ago when we had consecutive lows in the upper teens. Instead of the usual shifting of colors triggered by a good frost, I think the leaves lost the opportunity for gradual change. It’s as if the last bit of chlorophyll suddenly shrank in toward the middle of the leaf, fringing the changing color and acting as buffer to the sudden brown caused by the freeze.
Sometimes, the slow changes we anticipate in our lives are preempted by some seeming catastrophe. Without the expected opportunity for gradual adjustment, we react from the gut core of our emotions and unanalyzed responses. Shifting suddenly to some other mode, we discover another dimension of being and feeling. In some cases, we manifest an unknown quality of character.
Exposed to new challenges, we reveal the beauty of God’s work deep within us and witness the glory of his hand in response to the unsought demands of this world’s changing circumstances. It is not in the ordinary of shifting seasons that we learn the depths of unshakable faith and relentless love.