More Leaf, Less Color

Unlike the tiny, glowing bit of autumn warmth shown in my previous post, this oversized leaf of an American Lotus (Nelumbo lutea) has become more crispy than colorful. As it dried beneath the September sun, it curled into itself, revealing a delightfully golden underside and highlighted ribs: as pretty an autumn abstraction as you could wish.

Comments always are welcome.

81 thoughts on “More Leaf, Less Color

  1. It is a beautiful image, Linda, and you are to be congratulated for having detected the beauty of an autumn leaf. Your sensitivity gene was in high gear that day, but I suspect it is most days.

    1. It’s such fun to overcome my own prejudices. For years I lived with the conviction that ‘pretty fall leaves’ meant brightly colored fall leaves, à la New England. Now, I enjoy looking for signs of “our” autumn and celebrating them. I really enjoyed this photo; I’m happy you did, too.

    1. I’m learning to look below, as it were. I have a photo of a longleaf pine cone that aged similarly; it’s dull brown on the surface exposed to the sun and rain, and the most vivid green imaginable on its underside. Apart from the color, I like the contrast between the vertical and horizontal ribs, too.

      1. I remember that piece. Just yesterday Eve and I were talking about Crystal Bridges. She’d read a Wall Street Journal article saying that the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, N.Y., is selling off its prized Jackson Pollock painting to get money to buy more “diverse” artworks (the word I put in quotation marks is shorthand for ‘made by anyone other than a white male but we don’t want to come out and say it so bluntly’). The article noted that Crystal Bridges is “the one American museum that definitely has the financial resources to buy” the Pollock painting and keep it from going into private hands.

        1. This Artnet article was willing to say it bluntly: see paragraph four. I’ll admit that after looking at the Everson’s Pollock, I wouldn’t mind it falling into private hands, but that’s only my preferences showing.

          I may have asked if you’ve read Tom Wolfe’s brilliant Mau-mauing the Flak Catchers and Radical Chic. They’re in my regular rotation of mental health reading. Both can be found online: Radical Chic is here,, and the flak catchers here. Unfortunately, the person who transcribed the flak-catchers piece forgot about paragraphs. The book containing both pieces probably is in the library.

          Of course, 1970s Tom Wolfe was a bit of a trip himself. Still, when I began working at a social service agency in Oakland in the 70’s, my first assignment was to read “Mau-mauing the Flak-Catchers.”

            1. My favorite aunt, who lived on West 16th in NYC, married a dear man from New Jersey. He was born and raised there, and always grinned when he told us he was ‘in garbage.’ Some of his stories of mob shakedowns still resonate.

    1. While I was going to college in Maryland, I visited nearby Dover, DE, and wandered into the Johnson Victrola Museum. It turned out to be a lot of fun, the guide was a great guy, a retired engineer, and he turned on some recordings for us. They had some machines with very large wooden horns, designed for public schools, as I remember. – – and without any electrical amp, they’re loud enough, you don’t want to stand right in front of it.

      1. I read just a bit about the old Victrolas, and about the process of restoring them. I was especially interested in refinishing the wood, of course. It’s clearly delicate and painstaking work. I remember the Victrola label on some of the old 78 rpm records we had, and I remember the logo: the dog listening to “his master’s voice.” It’s interesting that they didn’t need amplification.

            1. Did you ever play the ‘telephone’ game as a kid? How the details of a sentence would get twisted in the retelling. (I truly think it was a poke at the busy-bodies who’d eavesdrop on their party lines’ conversation:/) How times have changed, hey?

            2. Oh, gosh, yes. I think today they call that social media! As for party lines, I once lived in a town where a church, a gas station, and the post office were on the same line. Every time I remember that, I laugh.

  2. Very pretty and very Fall-like. Not every leaf will turn red or orange — some will become brown and drop off. This one seems to want the best of both worlds!

    1. The colors are interesting. I don’t know what I expected from lotus leaves in the fall, but it wasn’t this. I suppose the fact that these leaves are raised well above the water helps to explain their ability to dry out and shrivel — attractively so! So many of our aquatic plants turn mushy and decay — the sight of those isn’t so pleasant.

    1. I think there must be something about the leaf structure that encourages that sort of curling. It certainly created an unexpected and pleasing effect in this instance.

      1. The topside looks rather mildewed, or something, while the underside reminds me of a lovely, tanned doeskin embellished with rows of jewel toned beads… Perhaps it’s the strength of the vein structure that causes the curling?

    1. I love that! Hooray for your mother; that’s very thoughtful. Did you press them between sheets of waxed paper and hang them in the window for the light to shine through?

  3. This is great, Linda, the colors, patterns and textures are eye-catching. A bit like tobacco leaves, that I saw once being dried/aged/fermented for expensive cigars. The leaf on the left looks leathery, and the on the right, like old crumpled & oxidized sheet metal. Very cool photo, congratulations.

    1. Now that you’ve mentioned tobacco leaves, I can see them. Another piece in the Crystal Bridges collection is Thomas Hart Benton’s The Tobacco Sorters — the resemblance between the leaves is obvious, now.

      I think part of the leathery look might be due to what looks like punch marks at the top of the leaf. It does look a bit like tooled leather. It’s just so interesting to me that the textures could be as different as the colors.

      1. That’s a beautiful sculpture–thanks for the link. I studied pottery for several years at Austin Community College, just a few years ago. I’m not that interested in throwing (though I know how, not great at it), but I love hand building, sculpture. The photo that you linked to is exactly the kind of ceramic art I love. One of my teachers is also a gardener, so our interests aligned, both out in the garden and in the studio.

  4. Wonderful leaf textures! I like dried curled leaves too when I see them and enjoy when they sometimes contrast with the green ones…I see that with leather ferns sometimes.

    When I used to try and make photos which would in my mind be perfect and frameable with lush green leaves around the birds, I realized that I liked dried up leaves with their browns, coppers and yellows much better when painted than photographed. I’ve changed some on that, but grungy decayed things somehow look better painted. Maybe its a step back from realism into pure color.

    1. Of course, there’s dry decline and wet decline, and wet decline can be a little less pleasant — especially when fresh water plants meet salt or brackish water and become mushy. Of course, storms often are involved in that kind of change; the plants get swept down toward the bay and pile up in the marinas, and it’s really unpleasant.

      One of the pleasures of discovering east Texas was finding so many varieties of ferns. Seeing the combinations of just those colors you mentioned was lovely — and I do think their attractiveness is increased when they’re combined with a bit of green.

  5. dried leaves and flowers are often just as beautiful as when they were fresh. a friend had some tulips that he allowed to dry out and dessicate in the vase and then he took black and white photos of them and they were really wonderful.

    1. You’re right — black and white can do things that color can’t, especially when the form is more important than the color. I don’t mess much with black and white, but it really worked a while back when I posted that photo of the whistling duck in the dead tree. Sometimes sepia does the trick, too; I really like sepia fog.

    1. I wasn’t sure what people would think about it, but I liked it, so up it went! The more I look at it, the more I like it: both the colors and the textures. The world is so beautiful!

    1. If I hear something at the lake that sounds like a horde of picnickers, I’ll take a second look. I thought coots were the noisiest birds on the water, but that might not be true.

    1. You’re right. Someone else mentioned tobacco, and I went off to look at Thomas Hart Benson’s painting titled The Tobacco Sorters. Sure enough, there’s a resemblance there. I think the size reinforces the impression, and the ribs that meet in the middle of the leaf probably add some stability as they dry. I really like them.

          1. No kidding? Well, maybe some of that will reach us. They’re talking about a real front next week, and more fall-like temperatures — 60F/15C. I’m more than ready, just like everyone else I know.

            1. Well, it was one of those teasers… Y’know, when Nature says “HEY, this is what you’d better be getting ready for…” kind of shot-across-the-bow for a couple of days and now it’s actually been back to end of August weather for about a week before slowly tailing off to seasonal norms… Just as well too, ‘cause that was ‘way too early for a first frost!!

    1. A couple of people mentioned leather, which could be considered a form of textile art when it’s ‘worked.’ There are so many contrasts: more than I would have suspected in ‘just a leaf.’

        1. I can imagine that’s a good part of the pleasure of gardening — walking out to admire what you’ve brought into being, just as I enjoy looking at my photos of plants.

          1. Yes, that’s been really important this year, when we’ve had to spend most of our time at home. And my husband has enjoyed the garden too, so I suspect there will be plenty of nursery visits for more plants in the future!

  6. For some reason this reminded me of pictures I’ve seen of the Disney Concert Hall in LA, an abstract silver mishmash of shapes created by architect Frank Gehry. I wonder where he got his inspiration…

    1. Now and then, I think Gehry’s still looking for some inspiration, but that’s just me. I try to appreciate his work, since he’s famous and all, but it can be a struggle. I did look up the concert hall you mentioned, and whatever else can be said, it seems to have some of the greatest acoustics in the world. That’s the important thing for a concert hall — amazing that such an ungainly building can function so well.

  7. Nicely presented, Linda. One of the joys of autumn is finding these little gems when so much is fading and crumbling. The shaping and earthy coloring is more lovely than people might expect. I see a lot of beauty in this photograph.

    1. I was surprised by the contrast in color, partly because I’d seen so many lotus leaves that were tattered and torn — probably from all those Gallinules walking over them. Maples and elms are fine, but there’s something autumnal about this that those trees couldn’t match if they tried. Not every leaf needs to fall to signal ‘fall.’

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