A Testament to Life

Leaf On The Bottom Of A Shallow Stream
Las Huertas Creek, New Mexico

I thought for a while about this blog title. I threw out “Mother Nature”, “Life and Death”, “Life Stories”, “Leaves”, etc. Finally, “A Testament to Life” drifted to the top of the list.

After all, that is what this picture, and all my tree leaf images, is about.

Have you ever thought about a leaf’s life? It starts as a tender bud unfurling from a branch. The leaf hangs on tightly, dependent upon the branches, the tree trunk, and deep roots to give it form. Once it unfurls, it soaks up sunshine and nutrients from the very air itself to create sweet sugars for this family called a tree. It grows larger.

I have seen birds pluck tender buds in the springtime, and those buds never become leaves. But on the other hand, a bird thrives and weeks later it will build a nest in the same tree, hidden and sheltered by other leaves.

Winds and rain come with the seasons and batter and tear at the leaf. Still, the leaf hangs on, flexible enough to bend and let adversity pass it by. Insects sometimes munch an edge of a leaf, or suck the juice from it. And you know what the leaf does? It “talks” with chemical molecules to attract pest eating insects so it can survive. It literally calls for help. Then, scarred and torn, it continues with its life of creating sweet sugar.

One day, fall arrives. Hormones from the tree, less sunshine and cooler temperatures cause the leaf’s veins to narrow. Sugars become trapped. Then the leaf does the most amazing thing. It uses the sugar and light to produce vivid colors. A barrier of cork grows at the base of the leaf, until one day, it falls free of the tree and of life.

This then is the beginning of its last hurrah. The leaf drifts with the wind, letting itself be carried. Some unknown force guides it until it lands where time and decay will strip it of all that remains. And somewhere in these last moments of its life, if I’m lucky, I will see this miracle laying on the ground, arranged in a tableau only nature can create.

And, if you’re thinking this is an analogy of our own brief time here on earth, well, you’re right.

Published by Mary Lee Dereske

When asked what type of photographer I am, I invariably find my answer to be as fleeting as light on a subject. I love making images, I love creating books, and I love when others respond to my work. A native daughter of Michigan, I live in New Mexico and love both places.

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