Those Autumn Leaves
Not too long ago, Middle sat hunched over his biology book, notes, and a laptop. Earnestly, he asked, “Mom, do you know how to balance chemical equations?” I figured that since he was studying biology, it would be safe to say, “Oh sure, honey, it’s been a while but I think I can do it.” Now when I say “it’s a been a while,” what I mean is that the crust of the Earth was still hot the last time I balanced a chemical equation.
Middle’s first semester biology project, however, is a lot more appealing than balancing chemical equations. He has to find leaves from 25 trees indigenous to South Carolina. Fifteen of the trees are assigned; the remaining 10 may be of his choosing, as long as the trees are native to the Palmetto State.
Each tree has to be represented by at least two leaves, pressed in a leaf press and mounted in an album. Of course, each pair of leaves must be labeled by scientific name and common name. Additionally, economic and anecdotal information about each particular tree is required. The leaves must be green; they may not have any tears, specks, or other imperfections. Seriously.
Students were strongly encouraged to include their families in the leaf collecting part of the project, so off we headed to the South Carolina Botanical Gardens, conveniently located at Clemson University. I am ashamed to say that I had never visited the state’s Botanical Gardens before. What a treat! The Gardens, which are free and open year round, comprise 295 acres. Miles of streams and nature trails weave throughout a 70-acre arboretum, a butterfly garden, a wildflower meadow, and fern and bog gardens.
Pictured above is the elegant wind flower, growing in the woodland garden. I had never seen this flower before, and I can describe it only as arresting. It literally took my breath away for a second. The brilliant white blossoms wave on stems that are about three feet tall. In addition, more than 400 varieties of camellias, as well as an extensive collection of hollies, hydrangeas, and magnolias are planted on the property.
Despite all the leaf angel antics, Middle was able to identify most of the trees he needed. The Pumpkin Ash was a new tree to me. Below is the trunk of a Shag Bark Hickory. Little enjoyed climbing the Southern Magnolia.The Mister and Little with our collection. Certain family members have accused me of burnishing our life in this blog. I don’t think that’s quite the case. I really don’t burnish; I just leave out the more mundane and irritating bits. Still, in the spirit of full disclosure, let me say that our lives are not blog perfect. Stuff gets misplaced. Sometimes we’re late. The house gets messy. We bicker. We regularly annoy one another. Sometimes on purpose. Usually, we get over it pretty quickly. Ice cream produced at Clemson’s dairy by Clemson cows and served by students at the ‘55 Exchange seems to help, although Little still looks a little miffed. All in all, it was a gorgeous day, a Sunday afternoon spent in God’s breathtaking creation with nary an iPod or cell phone to distract. Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns. ~George Eliot
"Behold congenial Autumn comes,
the Sabbath of the Year."
- John Logan, 1748 - 1788
Thy bounty shines in autumn unconfined
And spreads a common feast for all that live."
- James Thomson
Ah. Sweet Autumn. Let’s not rush through what’s left of it.