Chasing Light: Falling leaves, whispered secrets

frozen leaf
A single leaf from a cottonwood tree becomes entombed in the ice of Meadow Creek, near Frisco, for the winter.

Those sweeping autumn aspen landscapes are just dandy, but take a moment to consider the life of a leaf. After sprouting tender green in April or May and then working hard at photosynthesis for several months, it starts to feel the day shortening and perhaps reacts to a drop in temperatures, suddenly shutting down that little chemical factory. With any luck, it will experience a gradual transition, lingering on a high branch for several weeks in a metamorphosed version, no longer creating energy, but ready to return some of that carbon to the earth beneath the tree. Even when those grand golden landscapes start fading to pale gray, you can still find splotches of color on the forest floor, swirling in a river eddy or even locked into the icy surface of a small stream. Look closely, for the leaves reveal their secrets when they fall.

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