Ode to Leaves

Leaves are the magical generation of food from light. Photosynthesis may be one of the most magical things in the real world. The ability to use light energy to create food out of water and air is simple and simply astounding. The green associated with leaves is the hallmark of life. It is proof that there is health in a place, and it is soothing to our brains. The rustling of leaves gives the comfortable knowledge of a soft breeze, the warning of a storm, and the indication of changing seasons. They are the first new hope of a plant attempting to take its claim on the world, a brief glimpse that may last millennia. Leaves come in a huge variety of shapes, colors, and sizes. The leaf is the success story of plants. The basic distinction of deciduous and evergreen leaves exemplifies the varied methods of surviving in the world. The various surface areas from umbrella sized leaves to the smallest sprigs on an Fallugia paradoxa (Apache Plume) gather light and conserve or shed moisture in locations from rain forests to deserts, the tropics to the arctics. Leaves have all sorts of shapes as they rise from stems directly or in more and more complex patterns of splitting. They can come in colors from blue to any shade of green, green-yellow, and even in purple. The colors of fall are fireworks of chemicals and transitions as nutrients are removed successively from leaves revealing new colors with each wave of winter preparation.

I can spend days simply staring at the leaves of plants. They are interesting to look at both in structure and color. I like how many leaves have a sheen on their bottom side that flickers reflections at you in the wind. The variation in color gives me an appreciation for subtlety most often as there is a special acuity of sight to differentiate the shades of green between even the most similar species. The contrast that can come from far sides of the spectrum in leaf color can create interest and beauty even in the most unlovely of individual plant appearances. My favorite leaf shape is probably that of the maple, with ferns and firs in close pursuit. The multifaceted directions of maple leaves and the promise of fall color give added enjoyment to the soft green colors. They are almost non-descript through the summer, giving a sense of life and health to landscapes, yet they become the best in show for the falls. The softness of fern and fir leaves make them pleasant to touch. Ferns only grow in areas ancient and untouched where I live, but they are also the first colonists of lava flows and islands. They are among the most ancient of plants and suggest primordial dinosaurs with their presence. Firs are the gentle yet heartiest of species, clinging to cliffs and enduring the harsh snows of winter without giving up their leaves. Still, they keep soft and gentle needles, a mercy in a harsh environment.