Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Old leaves and new

In a short story called The Boundary, Wendell Berry describes the thoughts of an old farmer walking in woods he has worked in all his life:

 "Such a little piece of the world as he has before him now would be worth a man's long life, watching and listening. And then he could go two hundred feet and live again another life, listening and watching, and his eyes would never be satisfied with seeing, nor his ears filled with hearing. Whatever he saw could be seen only by looking away from something else equally worth seeing. For a second he feels and then loses some urging of delight in a mind that could see and comprehend it all, all at once. 'I could stay here a long time,' he thinks. 'I could stay here a long time.'"

Today I sat on the lawn reading Berry's rich story. The sun shone through trees, dappling the pages. My four year old brought me speckled yellow leaves one by one.

"Is this one beautiful? Do you love it?" she asked.

"Yes. It's beautiful. I love it."

"Is this one beautiful? Do you love this one?"

"Yes. It's beautiful."

She found a lacy, brown leaf skeleton.

"Do you love the fragile ones?"


"Do you love all leaves? Do you think all leaves are beautiful?"  she asked me earnestly.

"Yes. I think all leaves are beautiful."

"I will get you some green leaves now," she said, tense, wide-eyed, on a mission. And she brought me some leaves of a weeping willow tree and the inside of a pussy willow bud. The gray catkin was tiny, exquisitely silvery and sleek like a newborn kitten. It appeared to be fully formed, waiting, I assume, to emerge next spring. My lap was a nest of leaves.

I finished reading the story and another, and we went inside while the leaves scattered on the ground. I had just been in two sunlit, leafy places at once--Wendell Berry's farmland with its fine old farmers and the front yard with my dramatic little girl. I felt effervescent with words, sunlight, and the thought of numberless wonders. I decided to go back outside and choose a wonder to draw.

The composition isn't any good, so we'll just call it some studies of leaves.

The prompt for Illustration Friday this week is "journey". The leaves made a journey to the ground, I made a journey into a story world where an old man took several kinds of journeys at once, and my daughter made many little journeys to bring me leaves, so I decided this would do for Illustration Friday.
 Update: Lucy informs me that the pussy willow here blooms in the fall as well as the spring, so the catkin was in readiness for the fall.


  1. Moments to treasure! It's been a long time since a child brought me leaves or flowers. Nice drawing!

  2. Moments to treasure indeed! Thanks.