Wondering and walking often go hand in hand for me. I love the solitariness of walking without a care in the world, sometime pondering life and sometimes just drinking it all in. “It” would be nature or perhaps people-watching sometimes … I love this little “me time” that I have allotted myself and as I set out this morning on a balmy day which feels more like August or early September, I was greedily wishing it was still Summer and I had more months to enjoy my daily walks. I was musing to myself that Autumn is the only season with two monikers – we refer to this season as “Autumn” and “Fall”. Spring, Summer or Winter are simply as stated. Who decided Autumn is also called “Fall”? Why “Fall”? Well everything “falls” in autumn – temps are usually falling, leaves are falling – well, that is stating the obvious. In the last week alot more leaves have fallen. Not enough to rake yet, but noticeably leaving some branches looking bare. Fresh leaves are strewn all about, as well as old, crumpled-up ones that are crispy beneath my feet as I trek down the sidewalk.
Today while walking I spotted a perfect maple leaf laying right-side up on the sidewalk. It was a brilliant brandy color and must’ve just dropped off the nearby tree as it was still supple and unmarred by sidewalk irregularities and not trampled by footprints. I stooped and picked it up, and admired it, then I was absently twirling it around in between my forefinger and thumb as I walked along. I decided to take it home with me – a little touch of the harvest season in the house until it withered. Perhaps I should press it between the pages of a book like I did so many years ago?
Dwelling on that idea, my thoughts were transported via the way-back machine to an assignment by my first-grade teacher, Mrs. Deaken, at E.A. Orr Public School in Oakville, Ontario. Our class assignment was to go to a beautiful, wooded area on Speers Road, not far from our elementary school, to gather and identify leaves. We had to find one near-perfect leaf from as many different deciduous trees as possible in this tiny forest. I remember going on the weekend with my father. We trudged through the woods, striving to get a few samples of maple, elm, oak, chestnut, sycamore, poplar and birch leaves. I recall this memorable assignment with such precision now … plucking some leaves from the ground or having my father bend a high branch down to my height to get that perfect leaf, then putting it into a brown paper bag for safekeeping until I got home. I had many different maple specimens as I recall. Once the leaves were gathered, each different leaf had to be carefully “pressed” between waxed paper to preserve them, layered into the pages of a heavy book to totally flatten them, then later scotch-taped to a sheet of paper. Lastly we had to oh-so-carefully print the Latin and common name of the tree in the lower, right-hand corner. We had to make a front and back cover with construction paper for our scrapbook of leaves and submit it to our teacher by the end of October.
I cannot help but wonder if teachers today would have their young charges compile and submit a collection of real leaves. My assignment was five decades ago … (gulp) a half-century ago. Go ahead and call me a cynic, but I am sure the same assignment in 2013 would involve school kids “collecting” clip art of leaves from Google Images, cutting-and-pasting those pictures into a Word document and submitting it to the teacher online.
Well, I kinda sorta like the old way better. I toted today’s maple leaf home and propped it up on the windowsill . It will last a day or two before it wilts or turns brittle on the edges – maybe it will last until the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday on the 14th, but I doubt it. It shall brighten up the kitchen and it has made my heart light as well … thanks for the memories little leaf.