make like a tree

Something rare and unusual happened this year where I live.


Here, we usually we go straight from summer to a few ice storms that we like to call winter. Spring is also known as Tornado Season and then we go right back to summer’s so hot you can literally fry an egg on your driveway and make cookies on your dashboard. (I have done both).

 But Autumn around here usually lasts about a week. That small sliver of time that Target takes down the Halloween decorations and puts up the Christmas ones.

This year, however, the crisp weather has lasted a little bit longer. Even if it is erratic.
One week I am bundled up in blankets, coats and hats in the freezing rain for my girl’s soccer game, and the next I am worried that I should have put sunscreen on her.
Two Sundays ago my kids rolled up their pants, slipped off their shoes and played in the new fountains downtown for well over an hour. They were soaked. My son laid out his shirt to dry in the sun while we licked the frosting off our cupcakes. (ok, I rolled up my pants and took my shoes off too, but I kept my shirt on!).
Two days ago -Sunday, we got up early, loaded up our car with suitcases and gifts and headed north to see family for the holidays. Less than an hour out of town, our windshield froze over. The wipers got stuck on the ice and sleet covered the roadways.

Reluctantly we headed back home.  And looked at pictures of snow and ice just North of us, but the first snowpocalypse of the season didn’t make it this far down 35. (I should also note that Target was completely out of Fritos, because if it drops below 35° here …everything shuts down and we all make chili for dinner).

One word explains it all. Texas.

Today I was thankful for the electric seat warmers in my car. By the end of the week, the weatherman swears we will be back in short sleeves and I guess I will have to shave my legs again.

 One thing that doesn’t need to dress for the weather, is the trees. And this year they have been spectacularly bright. For a state that doesn’t really do Fall well, the trees have turned red and orange and yellow and stayed that way for longer than usual.

 I’ve read up before on why leaves change color. Scientifically and metaphorically. For me it is hard to separate. We do a lab every year in my AP biology class where my students take a bright green piece of spinach and use a solvent to pull out all the pigments within the leaf. There are four in spinach. Chlorophyll a, chlorophyll b, xanthophyll and carotene.  (dark green, light green, yellow and orange).  The green chlorophyll’s job is to make food for the plant, but it is really only good at doing that within a pretty limited range of lightwaves. (color). The other accessory pigments help the plant absorb and use a broader range of light. In other words, they aren’t nearly as efficient but they are a whole lot more pretty. And that is just spinach.

Produce isn’t generally known for it’s beautiful foliage. The trees I ran past in the park today I’m pretty sure were just showing off.

 I make no secret that I am a summer girl. I like sweaters, but not nearly as much as I like sunshine.  When winter comes, the days are short, my kids are cooped up in doors and I have a hard time getting off the couch.

I think trees are the same way.  When winter comes, sunshine is in short supply and they pretty much decide to take the winter off. All the photosynthesizing parts (the green ones) decide that with sunshine in short supply that maybe they should cut their losses for a while and wait around for spring to do any more work.  They shut down their green little food making factories for a long winter’s rest and live off all the food they made in the Spring and Summer. The first thing that happens is that the chlorophyll starts to degrdade, the plant doesn’t bother to make more and instead of green the plants turn all kinds of fabulous yellows and oranges and reds before eventually dying and falling off.

 (and if you are a botanist – I know I just completely oversimplified things and left out how the red gets there…bare with me, I'm not really here to talk about plants...that is what Wikipedia is for)

As I ran today, I thought about that.
Less about the science of why, but mostly that the red and the yellow and the orange that is there all along.
We just can’t see it.

I am not good at letting things fade.
I want to keep them and hold onto them and make them look like I think they should.

And maybe sometimes that keeps me from seeing what has been there all along.
This way of nature resetting.
Of resting.
Of letting go of things.
Of preparing to grow. For the new that will be Spring.
Of reminding us to look for those things that often get overlooked. Overshadowed.
Deemed less important.
It is like God is saying as beautifully as only He can to pay attention to those things.
To Notice.
To find them in others. And in ourselves.

Maybe that is why the leaves change colors.
To remind us of the beauty we often forget has been there all along.


Rocks for jocks

I have zero interest in rocks. None. Unless it is one on my finger, and even then I don't really care that much about carrots or cut.
Whoever wrote my degree plans, however, thought I should take a few geology classes in both undergrad and grad school. For multiple semesters in college I sat through lectures on rocks, the age of the Earth, talked about fossils and what really killed off the dinosaurs.
I stayed awake. But. Just barely.
I also remember in labs, having to classify types of rocks. chert, sandstone, obsidian.
A few were pretty...but most were just brown stones to me.
One of the ways we had to identify them was based on the Mohs scale of hardness.
You would scratch the surface of one rock or mineral on another to see which one was harder. The values range from 1 - 10, depending on how easily it is scratched.

In the hospital they always ask you to rate your pain. On a scale of 1-10.

And those scales and numbers and ways of classifying things are useful. Sometimes.

Yesterday I watched a ted talk that i haven't been able to shake. (this one) The topic was how we approach hard conversations.  The things we hide. The struggles we have to sometimes just be who we are and say what needs to be said.

She said something that totally disputed what I learned in my college geology classes.
She said this.

"Hard is not relative. Hard is just hard."

Unfortunately, I think most of the time I go around classifying, comparing and rating and justifying.

I am amazed at some of the things others have overcome. I am shamed at how little it sometimes takes to make me weep in the car.  I think my life experience (or lack there of) makes me expert enough to decide what others should feel, push through, shake off, face or break them.

I have no right.

Whose to say which is harder?
math or painting.
singing or baking a cake.
rejection or failure.
sickness or addiction.
calling back or hanging up.
saying yes or saying no.
living with lies or facing consequences.
giving or accepting grace.

Maybe you can't put a number on it. And maybe we shouldn't even try.
Hard is just hard.

What if I tried to not classify other people's hard. or hurts. and instead just acknowledged when others were in that place and tried to walk along side them.
Or,  if when I find myself in that same place that I allow myself the grace to be there for just a moment.
Rather than trying to decide if it is hard enough before telling myself to suck it up and get off the couch.

Back to my geology lab, the only way your could test a rock or minerals hardness was to scratch it against another surface and see if it left a mark.
To press one into the other and see which one gave.
And maybe when we feel the need to rate and compare and classify our own hardness, we cause this same kind of damage.

Maybe these scales are best suited for rocks and doctors.
Not our own hearts.

(photo at top credit found here