I have always had a strange fascination with leaves. Their shape and color and texture are a special distraction, and makes traveling to a different place or watching the seasons turn an inspiration. I could no sooner have a favorite leaf than I could claim to have a favorite kind of tea; for my mood changes as often as the light in a summer day.
The few memories I recall from early childhood are saturated in color, taste and smell. The rich variety of color within the same leaf astonishes me. It’s whole life is poured into startling hues of quiet obscurity, one among many. It’s a fair reflection of our own existence; one among many, but still unique.
Living in northern climates my whole life has its advantages. I played in piles of fallen leaves until I was a teenager. The feel of the leaves, their weight on my arms and legs, prickly through a thin shirt, stays with me still. It always will.
I remember leaves, heavy and damp at the bottom most layer of towering heaps. Leaves, dry and crackling at the very top, filling the space above my head as I turn the pile into a makeshift nest. Every movement in the pile will cause the leaves to pop and crackle, breaking like tiny pieces of crinkled wrapping paper on Christmas morning.
Gentle light filters through the top of the leafy ceiling, resting on my upturned face. I ignore my own tears from the dirt and twigs that inevitably find their way into my open, trusting eyes.
Leaf piles are a joy. It’s magical when you’re too young to think of what else besides leaves might be swept up with each of pull of enthusiastic raking. That ignorance is bliss.
The deeper colors of the earth are tangible in their own decay.The leaves in autumn turn a brilliant, then dusty red, with richly muted oranges mixed in like roasted apricots. Autumn is a zenith of treasured glimpses at leaves, baked and made brilliant by sunlight.
Jumping into leaf piles lost its instinctual charm as I grew older. But I still find myself idly collecting leaves, taking them with me instead. One or two at a time for pleasure, I pluck them from bushes, trees or the ground without a second thought.
Once plucked, or fallen from grace at their own bidding, it’s vibrancy quickly fades. It’s shape becomes dry as it crumbles into a new obscurity, mingling with other fallen leaves into the musky damp soil of a new beginning.
Once the color and texture are lost, I see great beauty in these dying leaves. Their veins and filaments are slowly carved into an entirely new existence, exotic and strange. Holes form like pockets of air as if they were always there, but only now revealed in a more pure and honest form.
The most beautiful leaves to me are those which are the oldest. No longer fresh faced beauties, but scarred warriors, filled with wrinkles and cracks of ravaged time, their veins the only foundation left behind.
Newly brown, the older leaves make my breath catch. As I hold them up to the afternoon sunlight, a revelation of hidden holes and new fissures create tiny constellations as yet unborn.
Leaves intrigue me. Delight me. They cover my desk and fuel my imagination. They inspire long moments of quiet reflection.
They’ve been, and will continue to be, a silent companion in my own journey of light and color for as long as I hold that delight inside myself.
I hope your steps will always bring you within easy grasp of leaves, ever present, and each with its own story to tell if you know where to look.