“Men are like trees, each one must put forth the leaf that is created in him.”
Henry Ward Beecher

What kind of leaf are you best represented by?

“I give dates because I am a date tree.  Not everyone likes dates.  I tire of them, too.  I would like to give oranges, pomegranates, or coconuts.  But I don’t happen to grow anything but dates, unfortunately.”
— Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Against Wind and Tide: Letters and Journals 1947 – 1986

“But at the same time, those same two qualities — knowing that we have within us something that marks each of us in a special way and that this quality has been given to use for some reason greater than ourselves — are the essence of coming to wholeness.  The task of determining what that quality is and what to do with it is the single great work of being alive.”
— Joan Chittister, Following the Path:  The Search for a Life of Passion, Purpose, and Joy

“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else, means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”
— e. e. cummings

“Am I still the person I have spent a lifetime becoming, and do I still want to be that person?”
Mary Catherine Bateson, Composing a Further Life: The Age of Active Wisdom

“Here we stop saying, ‘Well, that’s just the way I am,’ and begin to say, ‘There is more that I can be.’ ”
— Joan Chittister, Wisdom Distilled from the Daily:  Living the Rule of St. Benedict Today

I love these quotes because they make me think.  How much of who I am is “God-given” and how much can I control?  When I see my mother in me, or see similar mannerisms and qualities among my eight siblings (stubborn, opinionated, among them), then I know that nature and nurture have perhaps irredeemably shaped large parts of my being.  The leaf does not fall far from the tree!

Looked at that way, the challenge is to develop my talents and tendencies to bring out the best rather than the worst.  To make what can be only my unique contribution to the world.  To champion differences rather than pressure others to fit into my comfort zone.

And yet, there must be a large dose of choice at work.  Can I choose to become a better person, to overcome my faults, to grow into the person I am meant to be?  Can I choose a new path, regardless of my age?  What leaves can I bring forth, and with what vigor?

These acorns are still green, not brown

” . . . the iconic image [is] of a brown, ovoid nut with a woody tam o’shanter top.  But the acorn is way more variable than that.  Tree lovers, collectors, and life list keepers take note:  a fine travel goal would be to collect one acorn from all seventy species of oak trees that grow in North America. . .”
—  Nancy Ross Hugo, Seeing Trees:  Discover the Extraordinary Secrets of Everyday Trees

I find acorns irresistible.  They are small treasures, pocketable, smooth to the touch, a pleasant round shape.  When I see them, I cannot help but take a handful home.  While I like Nancy Ross Hugo’s suggestion to collect acorns from all seventy species of oak trees, I take a far less scientific approach.  I just admire their beauty, without identifying their exact species.

One of my goals for my week off work was to paint something everyday.  Several of those watercolor sketches were devoted to acorns.  Here they are:

Watercolor sketch of oak leaf with green acorns

Specimens from my collection

Oak leaves with acorns

Another variety of oak leaves and acorns

Oak leaf with five acorns

A circle of acorns


Green oak leaves and baby acorns

Oak leaves grow in clusters

“Yet what is more remarkable than that a tiny minority of souls reach a point where they entrust their bodies to the force of gravity is that so few of the rest of us will splurge an hour of a summer day gazing at the trees and sky.  How many summers do we have?”
— Edward Hoagland, “Heaven and Nature”

“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way.  Some see nature all ridicule and deformity . . . and some scarce see nature at all.  But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself.”
— William Blake

In all of my 50+ years, I can’t recall seeing the birth of baby acorns before.  My tree-watching experiment is proving to be a great impetus to my paying better attention and observing more acutely.  I’ve been watching these oak trees to see when acorns would start appearing.  And then suddenly this week they were there!  These baby acorns are very hard to spot because they are hidden by the densely clustered oak leaves.

Fall Leaves

October 23, 2009

Fall Photographs by Christopher Griffith

Fall Photographs by Christopher Griffith

In my work at the library, I often come across wonderful books that would normally be off my radar.  One such find is Fall Photographs by Christopher Griffith (2004).  I am captivated by Griffith’s technique of photographing fall leaves against a black background.  He captures the intricacy of the veins and surface details of each leaf.  The photographs are stunning.

It is more difficult than you would think to photograph leaves against a black background.  Here are my first attempts:

Fall leaf just beginning to turn

Fall leaf just beginning to turn

Red maple leaf suspended above backdrop

Red maple leaf suspended above backdrop

Oak leaf

Pin-Oak leaf

Oak leaf

Oak leaf

Backlit leaf

Backlit leaf