Thursday, July 16, 2009

turning over an old leaf

When I was very young I had a picture book. I can’t remember what it was. Perhaps Beatrix Potter. Something clearly rural. On one page there were some leaves, and on one leaf there was a squiggle of white. And it always bothered me.

I didn’t think it could be a mistake. Surely the people who drew the pictures for the picture books didn’t make mistakes. I believed all adults had learned to draw properly, to stay within the lines.

By then I had learned to draw leaves myself. Although I probably made them all the same shape. Coloured them all the same green, unless the felt-tip ran dry, in which case the tree would seem spoiled.

I probably thought leaves were limited to trees, or either side of the stem of a flower, as if for balance. I didn’t realise that all sorts of growing things choose to wear leaves. Hedges and weeds and even the things we eat.

Probably come autumn the teacher piled the tables with pens of red and yellow and orange and suddenly I didn’t spare a thought for the humble green. But I knew that pale wiggle was peculiar, as I’d never been taught to add that to my drawings.

And then today I look out of my back door and see a leaf, in fact two or more. Right there, hiding under the bush where the sparrows form a disorderly queue for the bird-table. And there is that squiggle, just as I remember it from that forgotten story.

And while I might not have learned to draw better leaves, and might still throw a tantrum if my pen runs dry, I have learned to grow my own leaves, and I recognise the work of a leaf miner when I see it.