Listen, I love fall. I love waking up to a chilly morning. I slip on a pair of socks, make some hot tea or coffee. I get to make and eat a hot breakfast. Apple cider donuts are in season. Maybe it’s because I’m a libra or my love of Halloween and horror movies, but fall is my favorite season. Why do I find so much comfort in a season that symbolizes dying?
Apoptosis is the death of the cells that occurs in multicellular organisms. “Apo” the prefix coming from Greek meaning from and “ptosis” meaning falling. Apoptosis is a form of programmed cell death, which means that it is this biological process in which there is a death of a cell. As humans we share this process with plants. Adult humans lose about 50 to 70 billion cells due to apoptosis. However, trees have a completely different process compared to us. Chlorophyll is what give leaves their green color. Chlorophyll absorbs the sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water then transforms them in carbohydrates. During the fall, daylight and temperature decreases causing the chlorophyll to break down. Which is how leaves get their yellow, orange, and red colors. Temperature, light, and water can affect the intensity of these colors. Trees shed their leaves as a means of survival. The trees prepare themselves for the winter and shedding their leaves so they can reduce wind resistance during the winter. This is how they save energy to bloom again in the spring. If leaves do not fall then the whole tree would die. Kind of like our bodies, dying cells need to be replaced. Any disruption to this process can lead to health problems, cancer, and death.
I think part of the reason why I love fall so much is that there is this romanticization of death. As humans, experiencing the death of a loved one, hearing about people dying on the news, and being aware of your own state of mortality is not a fun or happy process. I do not want to downplay the mental, emotional, or physical distress that some people have gone through. Death is just a part of life and it is terrifying to think about. However, it is necessary and it’s just one of those things we have to accept. It’s not so much that everything is dying, but how autumn prepares itself for survival. It is a beautiful and grim cycle, but the leaves are always going to bloom again.