Unmasked

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During a time when children don masks and panhandle for treats throughout neighborhoods, leaves remove their masks of summer. I am not too proud to tell you that a child opened my eyes to a new truth this week. I vaguely remember from elementary science that the limited fall sun causes a lack of chlorophyll, turning the leaves from a rich green to a combination of yellow, red, and orange. Photosynthesis comes into play somehow, but the details of the process are admittedly fuzzy. My sense of wonder at the beauty of autumn leaves has never been dependent on my understanding of the process … until I learned about nature’s unmasking.

Rather than green leaves becoming yellow, red, and orange in the fall, the green pigment in chlorophyll covers the true color of the originally red, orange, and yellow leaves during the full sun of summer. Bold and daring trees that flaunt their leaves in the full sun produce carotinoids (a yellow pigment); shy, sheltered trees hiding their delicate leaves in the protection of the shade produce anthocyanins (a red pigment); and the undecided leaves that flip-flop between bold and daring and shy and sheltered produce a wishy-washy orange hue. During the summer these multi-colored leaves mask themselves in the uniformity of green chorophyll. As the full sun of summer fades, so the green pigment fades revealing the true color of the leaves.

We are raised from a young age to conform with the children around us, ostracized for quirks (like talking to an imaginary friend), outward differences (like coke bottle glasses and a back brace), and body type (like a toothpick shape) — not that I know anything about these particular causes for ridicule personally. Middle school and high school contain their own special nightmares for anyone daring enough (or stupid enough, depending on how you look at it) to break out of the suffocating conformity.

Even as adults, fear may threaten isolation if we show our true colors. Will we be accepted if we don’t wear the right kind of jeans or shoes? Should we take the risk of trying a new hairstyle? Oh, the agonizing over just the right wording of an Instagram post!

What if, like the green leaves of summer, our conformity is masking our inner beauty? The dazzling red-leafed tree standing alone in the midst of a lush green grouping of trees warms my heart. I want to applaud that tree. “You display those leaves proudly! Way to be different! Don’t let those other green trees shame you into submission!”

I want to be that bold tree. So here goes …

I will not wear 80’s fashion, no matter how popular. It was bad enough the first time around.

I will never color my hair gray or ombre. My urge to cover gray hair and roots is too strong to overcome, even if gorgeous models wear it well.

I remain a steadfast “meh” sports fan. If it’s not figure skating, please don’t try to draw me into your sports talk.

I will never be good at social media. When I post something on Instagram, Twitter, or facebook, I get so distracted by the demands of life that I forget to respond when people share my link or post comments. Let me just apologize right here and now. I love you and appreciate you, but I am easily distracted. It’s not personal.

Reading is my favorite pastime. No, I most likely haven’t seen the latest movie or show. I have never watched “This is Us” though I hear good things about it. The characters in the books I love become my friends. I ponder their troubles, wondering how they will handle their current predicament.

I love hot tea and coffee, no matter how hot the weather is.

I am a functioning introvert (coined by my friend Bonnie). I would love to go to lunch or have coffee with a friend or two, but an invitation to a party stresses me out.

Want to unmask your inner beauty with me? I dare you to show off your quirks and idiosyncrasies. If the leaves can stand boldly displaying their true colors, so can we.

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