The Miracle of Anthocyanin

I love Fall. Did you know that the colors the trees change into are not actually new colors at all, but that the oranges, reds and yellows were there all along? It's true.

As the tree goes to sleep for the winter, storing the food from the leaves in the root system, the leaves' chlorophyll drains away, revealing the underlying substances: carotene ('kar-uh-teen) [orange], xanthophyll ('zan-thuh-fil) [yellow], and my favorite -- the brilliant red or purple anthocyanins (an-thuh-'si-uh-nuhn).

Such ugly names for such pretty things.

It almost makes the words themselves become pretty -- realizing what "kar-uh-teen," "zan-thuh-fil," and "an-thuh-sigh-ah-nin" represent.

It still seems silly, though, in a way, to have constructed such bland, soulless terminology for such a simple pleasure. But that's our nature, I guess -- trying to understand and categorize what's around us. To stand back objectively and analyze a phenomenon, putting aside the natural pleasure you feel while beholding it.

The ideal, perhaps, is to let those impulses live together in your understanding, and keep a balance between them. What a feat it would be, to look up at a bright yellow tree, blazing in the Fall sunlight, and to comprehend why it is yellow, to understand all about the xanthophyll being uncovered by the fleeting chlorophyll, but to simultaneously look -- just look -- and gasp with amazement.

A mind that can understand, yet marvel all the same: Yep. That's what I want. May I never abandon one for the other.

Then again, that sense of wonder doesn't really seem to be wearing off. Not at all. In fact, the more autumns I see, the more I seem to appreciate them.

It's as if my aging mind is glowing brighter -- shedding the layers of sameness to reveal the unique colors that were there all along. Shining, almost ... blazing in the familiar sunlight.


Katrina said...

I loved this post. Autumn is the best season, hands down.

Anonymous said...

um... please, sir, could I have some more? More popcorn? The kind you dish out? But easy on the the unpronouncable chemical compounds. And also, the butter. I'm watching my cholesterol. Ditto, the salt.

In other words: UPDATE!


xo Wee