Monday, November 2, 2009

Autumn Leaves

Today is November 2 and the leaves that are left on the trees have passed their peak and are now beginning to hang on for dear life here in Northern Virginia. There are still rich hues of autumnal color to be enjoyed but the colors are turning into more burnished, coppery tones on what is left of the vibrantly painted leaves from the last few weeks. Such is the month of November. Although it may start out colorful, the leaves themselves will, in the end, reluctantly dwindle away, taking their beauty with them and we will turn our minds and activities to, remembering the sparkling days of early fall and planning for the winter ahead.

Thanks to leaf collecting, an ongoing habit of mine, I still have pieces of October to savor. I was even able to pull Peter and his mother, Lynn, into the act when we were visiting her in Connecticut last week. I grew up appreciating sunny, autumn days that are meant for collecting leaves and enjoying the changing of seasons with family.

I remember collecting leaves with my mother and sister when I was very young. We would take long walks together on fall get-away weekends in Wisconsin gathering the prettiest leaves we could find. Sometimes, my father and brother would come along and it would be a total family affair. We would then bring them home where my mother would press the leaves between two sheets of waxed paper using her iron. My sister and I would then place the leaves for safe keeping in large magazines like "Life Magazine or The Saturday Evening Post"--okay I've just dated myself, here. My mother was an artist as well as an elementary school teacher and she was very particular about what kinds of leaves to save. Although my sister and I could pick up any we liked, only a few would be chosen at home to save for keepsakes that we could carefully preserve and bring to school for show and tell and art projects. Our collections were both beautiful and delicate and never the same from year to year.

I started collecting leaves again just a few years ago while walking Tucker along the country roads near and around my home. Taking the time to really savor not only the striking colors the leaves as they turn but also the interesting shapes and textures they boast and add to the fall scenery. Who doesn't love a pinkish red sugar maple leaf or a multi-colored oak leaf not to mention the crimson red of sugar gum leaves and the golden amber of tulip poplars or even the burgundy tone of dogwood leaves, just to name a few?!

Each time I go foraging for leaves, I tell myself that, this time, I'll only gather a few on my walk but some days, I just can't help myself and I bring home handfuls to press and store in my own books and magazines. Tucker has learned to patiently wait while I pluck leaves from branches or even scour the ground because, sometimes, some of the best specimens have just fallen. I have also been known to store leaves in my golf bag, only to discover them a few days too late for saving. Leaf collecting is wonderfully nostalgic, transporting me back to happy times spent with my mother and sister on many a fall Saturday afternoon.

I'm still collecting colorful leaves for this year and still bringing them home to tuck away and press in books and magazines. I'll pull them out next year for crafts and displays in the fall and even sell a few in September and October at the fairs. You wouldn't believe what a conversation starter a few colorful leaves can be in stirring up old and new memories with friends and acquaintances. As Martha Stewart might say, leaf collecting "is a good thing."

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