• Lisa Love

A science class, autumn leaves​​, and my mother ...

Updated: Oct 28, 2019

My mother had the most amazing gift - she could find the extraordinary in the ordinary.

Here is one of my favorite examples:

One fall day, while finishing her teaching degree, my mother was sitting in an earth science class. She was a single mom with 3 children and she was feeling very overwhelmed and disheartened. Her professor, very casually, made a comment about the changing colors of the leaves outside. He said that the leaves don't actually change color, they are simply not producing the same amount of chlorophyll as they do in the summer months. Chlorophyll makes the leaves green but is only produced when the temps are warm and the sunlight is abundant. The colors of the autumn leaves, her professor taught, were actually already in the leaf, we just don't see them until the temperature drops.

And there it was. That was all my mom needed for her creative, life-lesson-finding mind to discover something beautiful.

Let me tell you

The Parable of the Autumn Leaves

as told to me by my mother, Geneil Harline Davis

During the spring and summer months, the leaves on the trees are green and happy. Life is good during these months. Sunlight is abundant. Water is plentiful. The amount of chlorophyll in each leaf is at the perfect levels for each leaf to be nice and comfy in their different shades of green.

That comfort, however, doesn't come without work. The leaves are constantly working to use the sunlight to convert water and carbon dioxide into nourishment - this is called Photosynthesis. 

Did you know that Photosynthesis literally means "to put together with light"?

The leaves are put together with the light they receive from the sun each day.

(Remember this - it is important)

What many do not know is that mixed in with those beautiful shades of green, are other undetected colors - reds, browns, oranges, and yellows. These other colors are always there but all we see, when times are ideal, is the green.

As summer comes to an end and the days grow cooler and the sunlight is not as abundant, the amount of chlorophyll in each leaf decreases. Suddenly, the other colors lying within each leaf begin to appear on the leaf's surface.

Do you see what my mother saw?

Do you see the parable?

There are seasons in our lives. We pass through many springs, summers, autumns, and winters on a continual basis - sometimes over the course of years, and sometimes in a matter of moments.

It is a given that our autumns and winters will come. That is part of life here upon this earth.

In our own personal autumns, a cool wind begins to blow in our hearts and our minds and it may seem that the light around us is not as abundant as before. There may even be times we feel the sunshine has left completely. The comfortable green hues of ourselves begin to fade away and other colors begin to show themselves.

Have you ever looked closely at an autumn leaf?

They are not made up of just one color. There are several different colors that show themselves on the surface of each and every leaf.

Each leaf is unique with some colors that are a bit dull, and also some that are brilliant.

The more brilliant colors show themselves in places where the leaf still has some stored nourishment from the photosynthesis process. (There is another lesson there, for another day. Do you see it?)

When our autumns come, we show the colors that were already inside of us - the beautiful colors and the not so beautiful colors. We all have both, that is normal. What is not "normal" is the patterns of these colors that are unique to each of us individually. No two leaves are the same. That's how it should be. That's nature. No leaf tries to be like another or feels bad about itself because it is not just like the others. Each leaf simply focuses on being what it naturally is.

Eventually, each autumn will come to an end and the leaves will fall. That's not necessarily a bad thing because those leaves will then go through the process of nourishing the ground where they fell and the process will begin again ... and again and again and again.

My mom discovered this lesson during an autumn of her life. She was working hard to earn her teaching degree so she could support us a little better. We rarely had a car that worked very well, so she usually walked to her classes. I remember her backpack was patched together in many places and her shoes were almost completely worn through. I remember she did homework until the wee hours of the morning and I remember she was exhausted. I also remember that she never gave up. She got up every day and did what needed to be done, even when she didn't feel she had the strength to go on.

She did that for me and my siblings.

I will always be grateful.

My mother died almost 20 years ago. She was only 54. Autumn was her favorite season. When we were little, she would take us into the mountains to gather colorful leaves and then we would go home where we would then carefully place those autumn leaves between the pages of the biggest, heaviest books we could find. I still find some of those pressed leaves to this day and they bring back memories of my mother and the lessons she taught to me.

The Parable of the autumn leaves, which her creative mind developed that crisp fall afternoon when she was feeling overwhelmed, gave my mother courage and inspiration to keep moving forward. It became a guiding light for her, and it now guides me today.

The colors my mother displayed during the autumns of her life were brilliant and like the leaves that fall and become nourishment for future growth, her autumns provide inspiration for me as I go through my life.

I hope my children will one day be able to say the same thing of me.