Wednesday, December 12, 2007


The fallen leaves, surprised by last week's snow and the subsequent rains, haven't had the opportunity to shrivel up, get dry and crumble before winter like they usually do. Instead they've been mummified by all the cold precipitation, plastered into the pavements. Underfoot, the landscape is a decoupage of the elements, slippery, beautiful and slightly unnerving.

I don't remember a fall like this but I haven't lived here that long. I've definitely seen incredible variations here in the seasons, but nothing like this year, though I'm sure it isn't the first autumn of mummified leaves and leaf ghosts. Surely not.

It's new to me, which is what makes the leaf rot so interesting, and kind of creepy. The sequence goes like this: first they get flattened but are still structurally sound, then pudding-like, then transparent, after which they disappear altogether, leaving behind only ghostly silhouettes, as if they'd been vaporized.

Decay has never been my favorite phase of the cycle of life, but these tableaus, the sidewalks of Capitol Hill in mid-December 2007, are striking, even beautiful. A salute to the leaves, once vibrant, then colorful, now just a memory. May each of us be so graceful at the appointed time. Bravo! L'Chaim!


Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

Aside from your brilliant colours, that's exactly what we get here in autumn and winter, lots of wet, slippery leaves - makes great compost for the garden and so the cycle of life and death and life continues.

Lynne said...

Love the leaf "ghosts."
Be careful you don't slip on those wet leaves!

d. chedwick bryant said...

Ahhhh nice photos-- in my village we are supposed to pile our leaves up on the street in front of our houses, and the county vacuums them--this year the leaves fell late, got raked and streeted late, and now are huge wet icy mounds that the snow ploughs are afraid of, and go around!

last photo:
did those leaves "tint" the sidewalk?

Steve said...

Yeah, our leaves look like that too -- they were downed by the snow a couple weeks back, and got all translucent and goopy.

I always wonder whether those leaf "ghosts" are the result of a chemical interaction with something in the cement -- I only seem to see them on sidewalks.

lettuce said...

yes, decoupage! thats just what they look like. I'm fascinated by all these processes and variations with the autumn leaves too and have been taking so many photos a bit like yours. I've been wondering how long those smudgy pavement prints will last.