Sunday, October 14, 2012

Simply Leaves

Remember the fun you had as a kid walking through the freshly fallen leaves, listening to them crunch under your feet, smelling that fragrance of lost summer, eying the array of color, sometimes all in one leaf? Maybe like me you had the pleasure of jumping into the leaf piles your dad had just spent hours raking up, burying your sibling or getting covered yourself, bits of leaves forcing their way down your shirt, tickling your neck. And perhaps you too collected the best and the brightest of those leaves to seal between sheets of wax paper to hang in a sunny window like a piece of stained glass.

I still love strolling through leaves and looking, not only for the most colorful, but for those with sculptural aspects that will challenge my drawing skills. I enjoy trying to get the angles right, twisting and turning and folding into themselves, creating interesting shadows on my drawing table. Then I get to work on capturing the colors, blurring into one another like a bunch of old tie dye shirts. Buddha and Erb wait patiently, noses in the air catching the outside smells clinging to the leaves. When I'm done I'll toss the leaves onto the studio floor for their amusement. So here are some of my studies from this past week. I'm also including a little refresher course on why we are treated to such beauty in the first place.

Leaves don't really change color; the colors are always there, but the large amount of chlorophyll (this is what converts the sun's energy into food for the tree) that gives the leaves their green color through the growing season masks the other colors. When the chlorophyll dissipates in the fall, the other colors show through. The colder weather also causes the trapped glucose in some leaves to produce bright reds and purples. The shades of brown are from trapped waste.

Trees drop their leaves in the fall to keep from dying of thirst because leaves use up huge amounts of water. During most of the year that's not an issue, but in the winter, "psysiological" drought occurs and the tree can't absorb enough water. It mostly survives on stored food and water in its trunk and branches. Without its leaves, the tree can survive for a much longer time making it through until spring arrives, thawing the ground and bringing quenching rains.

So go outside and play in the leaves. Collect some and make a stained glass panel. Smell them, touch their brittleness, maybe even try to draw some!

"Autumn is a second Spring, when every leaf is a flower."    
                                                 -  Albert Camus


  1. yes,exactly! i would rake all the leaves from the tall oak to the foot of my slide.then use wax paper to wax the metal slide,making it sooo... much more slippery.stuffing the crinkled paper into my pocket, i climbed the stairs and proudly anticipated the plunge into that earthy nest of gathered foilage;scarlets,browns,reds and yellows.ah...the simple joys of a childhood autumn

  2. Those joys are still there for us Patricia. Someone once said, "Don't grow up. It's a trap." You may no longer have a slide but collect some leaves anyways.

  3. Autumn Fires
    In the other gardens
    and all up the vale,
    from the autumn bonfires
    see the smoky trail!
    Pleasant summer over
    and all the summer flowers,
    The red fire blazes,
    The grey smoke towers.
    Sing a song of seasons!
    Something bright in all!
    Flowers in the summer,
    Fires in the fall!

  4. "God's World"
    "O World, I cannot hold thee close enough!
    Thy winds, thy wide grey skies!
    Thy mists, that roll and rise!
    Thy woods, this autumn day, that ache and sag
    And all but cry with colour! that gaunt crag
    To cursh! To lift the lean of that black bluff!
    World, World, I cannot get thee close enough!
    Long have I known a glory of it all,
    But never knew I this:
    Here such a passion is
    As stretcheth me apart, - Lord, I do fear
    Thou'st made the world too beautiful this year;
    My soul is all but out of me, - let fall
    No burning leaf; prithee, let no bird call."
    -Edna St. Vincent Millay

  5. Autumn Day

    Lord, it is time. Let the great summer go,
    Lay your long shadows on the sundials,
    And over harvest piles let the winds blow.
    Command the last fruits to be ripe;
    Grant them some other southern hour,
    Urge them to completion, and with power
    Drive final sweetness to the heavy grape.
    Who's homeless now, will for long stay alone.
    No home will build his weary hands,
    He'll wake, read, write letters long to friends
    And will the alleys up and down
    Walk restlessly, when falling leaves dance.


  6. November Night
    by Adelaide Crapsey

    Listen. . .

    With faint dry sound,
    Like steps of passing ghosts,
    The leaves, frost-crisp'd, break from the trees
    And fall.