Monday, November 8, 2010

Autumn 4: Leaves

Autumn 4. The Leaves
            In the part of the world I call Home, leaves of broad leafed, or deciduous, trees respond to shortened day length by changing colour from green to red, orange or yellow.  Aspen and Maple, Birch and Elm spread colour to the winds, signaling the beginning of the season when plants and animals prepare for winter; Autumn.  Many here call this season “Fall”, perhaps remembering this is what leaves do after their colour is changed by trees.  Leaves cover the roadways and sidewalks, parks and lawns, dancing in the wind and collecting in bright crunchy piles wherever the wind chooses to pile leaves.
Figure 1.  Autumn leaves on the forest floor.  Photo by TP.
            My neighbours do not like leaves.  They invest time and effort blowing leaves off sidewalk and driveway; raking leaves off lawns.  Leaves fill giant plastic bags, and bags decorate sidewalks until those in charge of bags for the city in which I live come and take them.  Leaves look better without bags.  And the wind blows the leaves, and the leaves dance.  Leaves like my neighbour’s lawns, satisfying my neighbours need to blow and rake.
            I like leaves.  I invest time and effort walking through leaves, kicking them into the air, revelling in the flash of colour and the sound of crunch.  I like Ladybird beetles, and Ladybird beetles like leaves.  Deep under the soft insulating leaves, where the cold never reaches, all through our long white winter, Ladybird beetles sleep.  I know leaves guard Ladybirds, so my leaves stay where the wind would have them.  Who would argue with the wind?
            What of the leaves that Aspen turn yellow in the forest of my park?  No doubt some dance into my neighbour’s rakes.  Some fly into the grassland at the whimsy of the wind.  When I look for leaves, I find most lying on the forest floor, patches of yellow on brown and red.  Last years leaves lie beneath, hinting of what happens to Aspen leaves as autumn turns into winter, and winter into spring.  Frail and thin, brown soggy parchment leaves slowly disappear, vane first, leaving delicate networks of vein and rib.  In time, vein and rib, too, follow vane into soil.  Hidden life thrives in turning leaf to soil.  This life, so often ignored, releases carbon and nitrogen, phosphate and mineral.  Leaf becomes soil and soil nourishes forest, ensuring Aspen will set new leaves come snow melt and spring.  Aspen teaches about Aspen, leaf slowly becomes leaf, nutrients cycle, and all is well with my forest.

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