Trees aglow with amazing fall colors surround our provincial center. How grateful I am to live where we experience all four seasons. Each one has its own beauty, but in my opinion autumn is the most spectacular. The red, orange, and gold leaves are simply glorious. But how quickly they fall! (Is this why fall is called fall?) Then they are raked into mountains that children delight to jump into.
I learned the countless variety of leaves in high school biology class when we were assigned to collect them. A sycamore leaf on our tree lawn at home was my start. (This kind of leaf also became the template for a clay candy dish made in a sixth-grade art class.) My neighbor donated black locust leaves to the cause. My mother even had my dad park on the side of a highway and then she climbed on top of the car to fetch me a leaf I didn’t have. I flattened the leaves in books. (Who hasn’t done this?) Then I cut their shapes from white tagboard and mounted them, covered them with saran wrap, and stapled them to paper with their identification. My collection was displayed in a large three-ring notebook. It was a tribute to God’s creativity and garnered me an A.
Falling leaves bear a lesson for us. They remind us that our life on earth is lovely but fleeting. We long to hold onto it, but, like the last leaf in the Peanuts comic strip, eventually we have to let go. This is the theme of one of my favorite poems. It was written by Gerard Manley Hopkins:
Márgarét, áre you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leáves like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! ás the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wíll weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It ís the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.
Another lovely poem that celebrates trees is by Mary Oliver:
When I am among the trees, especially the willows and the honey locust, equally the beech, the oaks and the pines, they give off such hints of gladness. I would almost say that they save me, and daily. I am so distant from the hope of myself, in which I have goodness, and discernment, and never hurry through the world but walk slowly, and bow often. Around me the trees stir in their leaves and call out, “Stay awhile.” The light flows from their branches. And they call again, “It's simple,” they say, “and you too have come into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled with light, and to shine.”
You might ponder these two poems as well as Joyce Kilmer’s famous “Trees.”
For your enjoyment: The song “Autumn Leaves” sung by Frank Sinatra with a gorgeous video. https://youtu.be/Q9vZ3hHyJL8 You can skip the ads.
Right now this is the view from my office window. We might add to St. Francis of Assisi’s canticle: “Praised be you, my Lord, for autumn trees.”
• My favorite leaves are the star-shaped sugargum and the tulip. What are yours?