By Lisa Romantum Schwartz, UUFA’s Interim Minister
Green is one of my favorite colors, so I love the lush green of high summer: Grass, trees, algae, you name it –– plants of all kinds are busy emitting this rich color I associate with growth and life. In the words of one of my favorite philosophers, Kermit the Frog (Boris Johnson’s recent UN speech notwithstanding), “green can be cool and friendly-like, and green can be big like a mountain or important like a river, or tall like a tree…”
And then comes fall. And hey, I love fall, too! I’ve already made a crockpot full of chili and baked a couple of apple pies, so eager am I to welcome (conjure up?) the cooler weather and the forest’s jewel-toned season, but still, I’m always a little sad to see the season of green come to an end.
A friend of mine is a Master Gardener, and one day he asked me, “Why are leaves green?” It wasn’t a philosophical “why is the sky blue?” question, so I thought hey, I paid at least THAT much attention in elementary science class. I gave some kind of answer involving photosynthesis and chlorophyll.
My friend smiled and asked, “Yeah, but why is chlorophyll green?” I was stumped. “Well,” Mr. Master Gardner explained, “light comes in a spectrum.” All right, smarty pants, I paid attention there too. As you can see when looking at a rainbow (feel free to insert another Kermit the Frog earworm here), the spectrum of light ranges from red to violet. Plants can use almost all the spectrum in their manufacture of chlorophyll, but what they are able to use is found only on the ends of the spectrum. In fact, there is only one color that won’t work for plants: green. Unable to use green, they simply say, “Thanks, but no thanks,” and give it back.
You may have paid better attention in elementary science or art classes than I did. (For your sake, I hope that’s so.) I’ve since been reminded by several people that the colors of all objects we see are due to the way those things interact with light and the ways they reflect or transmit it to our eyes. The color of an object is not contained within it; it’s the result of how it interacts with the light that strikes it. (Fun fact: the only pigment in a peacock feather is brown.)
All this makes me think about how a human being decides what to reflect back to the world. How much of what I give is simply the extra that I have no use for, and how much is a full and generous gift of myself? How am I interacting with the abundance the world offers me – how do I give back? As the green fades from my outdoor environment, that’s the question I’ll be reflecting on.