A spark of light on the path

Wooded path with one tree with white leaves

On Sunday I walked in the woods near my home.

Last autumn’s leaves have not yet composted, so they cover the parts of the path that aren’t muddy. The trees in my Ottawa, Canada climate are budding, but branches are still bare of leaves. Muted colours of grey and brown and dark forest green dominate.

I rounded a corner in the path. Up ahead, white leaves fluttered on a single tree. With branches stretched out in a triangular shape, the leaves resembled the flickering lights of a Christmas tree.

I stopped to appreciate it. I walked closer to examine the leaves. I thought about another of Robert MacFarlane’s words: marcescence. It can refer to trees that hold on to leaves through winter, or people who wither but don’t fall.

Others might have passed by without noticing the simple gift of nature. I’m glad that I walk mindfully, on the lookout for sparks of light on my path.

If we’re watchful, we can perceive those little boosts to the spirits. They help us during times when we’re withering, so we don’t fall.

Close-up of a white leaf

8 thoughts on “A spark of light on the path

  1. marianbeaman

    Thank you for adding a new word to my vocabulary: marcescence. In Florida, this phenom happens too: leaves fall from oaks and maples from February – April, when we rake for the last time and use the leaves as mulch.

    Like you, I notice the gifts of nature: from my writing studio, trees and shrubs, and in the back: ducks on the lake – leaves floating down. This is a lovely post, Arlene: THANK YOU!

    1. Arlene Somerton Smith Post author

      From where I sit when I write, I can see the cardinals flitting around my cedar hedges and the squirrels playing in the maple tree. They are endlessly entertaining. Occasionally a bunny hops around in the early morning too. Nature is a wonderful sanity enhancer.

  2. Ally Bean

    A new word for me, but one with a timeless meaning. How encouraging to see those leaves on your walk and know they mean something more profound. Thanks for the positive start to my day.

  3. Janet Givens

    I love the Beech trees on our property, for they do indeed hang onto their leaves all winter and most of them look as dry and depleted as those in your photos. But they add interesting and welcome texture to the woods at a time when it needs it most. And, as I walk in my woods in the winter they give me a boost, indeed. Thank you for my new word: marcescence. I shall try to use it in a sentence. Is that first “C” pronounced like a “ch” ??

  4. Arlene Somerton Smith Post author

    Oh, I was afraid someone was going to ask me how to pronounce it! I had to look it up. It is
    [ mahr-ses-uh nt ], so the first c sounds like an s.
    I didn’t know that beech trees keep their leaves. I love the look a feel of the bark of a beech tree, though. I’m not a tree expert so I don’t know what kind of tree it was. It seemed rather lonely in its place, though. There were no others like it around that I could see. I think I’m going to revisit and find out more

    1. Arlene Somerton Smith Post author

      I became much more aware of those clinging leaves after I learned the word. I’d never noticed them before. Now I do, and they give me a little boost every time. “Hang in there,” they seem to say. Thanks for visiting my blog!


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