The Humble Leaf (August 2020)

It’s August now. Deep summer here in the Northern Hemisphere. The temperature is up and the humidity is down. And the sharp, old campfire tang of wildfire smoke drifts in the air. Extensive hiking has been put on hold. But there’s always time for the Forest. There, a reasonably comfortable loop hike can be hewn from an early start and a judicious choice of trails. And so it was. This time out, I started noticing the fallen leaves on the trail. Just leaves. And dead ones at that. Yet, in life, they busily inhaled carbon dioxide (of which there is now too much), generously exhaled oxygen (if you’re still breathing, thank a leaf), and offered cool shade from the incandescent sun. In death, they’ll return nutrients to the forest floor and add their carbon to one of our planet’s great biogeochemical cycles. Their colorful deaths will mark the end of one season and their green rebirth will signal the start of another. Raking them up provides healthful exercise. They make good compost. All this from leaves. Just humble little leaves. Hard to imagine life without them…

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