The trees seem to be begging for attention. Emerald summer mantles have given way to a flurry of crimson, amber, ochre, vermillion and gold. The autumn leaves are an eye-catching spectacle – they demand a skyward gaze.
But the greatest marvel of the season is what is falling to the ground.
Quite literally tonnes of leaves fall gracefully from overhead. They carpet forest floors, neighbourhood gardens, sidewalks and streets alike. All piled deep in layers upon layers of single leaves – the literalmille-feuilles of the natural world.
Our view of fallen leaves is far from generous. Our impression is epitomised in the word we use to describe leaves carpeting a forest floor – “the litter layer”.
In keeping with the fastidious manner that characterises our species, we work to get fallen leaves out of sight. We tidy them up, rake them in piles, bundle them in bags, and cart them away in truckloads – to be composted, to satiate hungry landfills, or to kindle autumnal bonfires. We treat them like Nature’s dirty garbage – hoovering them up, and disposing of them like so much carpet detritus after a riotous party.
And this somehow sullies the amazing thing about autumn leaves.
Autumn leaves are not some undesirable by-product of a grander process. They are not leftovers. They are not garbage.
Autumn leaves are an incredible product of evolution. Their existence is a remarkable testimony to the grand arc of evolutionary time. Their existence is purposeful, useful, advantageous.