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  • Writer's pictureDan FitzPatrick

Fall, Leaves

[Transcriber’s note: Some humans have commented on the absence of columns by Cadbury in recent weeks. Not to worry, all is well in the canine world; Logan and Cadbury have simply been enjoying the mostly beautiful fall weather. We are pleased to note that, with winter fast approaching, Cadbury is once again setting paw to paper.]

Fall, 2021

When we are not spending time with our human family, Logan and I love to sit together in our yard, watching the world go by and discussing matters of interest, both trivial and profound.

It is now that time of year, once again, when the trees shed their leaves and the humans with noisy “wind fingers” blow the leaves into huge piles before taking them away in their trucks. They have to come back again and again, for the trees do not cooperate by dropping their leaves all at once, but rather prefer to sprinkle them lazily with timing quite unpredictable. Logan and I are perfectly fine with that, as it provides us with more opportunities to be entertained.

I always enjoy seeing the leaves covering the ground like a multi-hued blanket. And when they are blown into the large piles, I love to jump in and out of them, listening to the rustling and light crunchy sound they make.

I mentioned this to Logan and asked him why the leaves turn color and fall every year. I learned a bit more than I bargained for.

As Logan explained it, leaves are normally a color called green because of a substance called chlorophyll which is what helps the trees convert sunlight into what they need to survive (Logan learned this by listening to a science show on television once when no humans were in the room). When the days get shorter, and the temperatures get colder, the leaves stop making food for the trees, the chlorophyll starts to break down, and the green color starts to disappear. At that point, the other colors in the leaves, which had been there all along but which were overwhelmed by the green color, begin to show themselves.

I asked Logan, why do the leaves fall from the trees? Wouldn’t it make more sense for them to remain until the spring, when the sunlight could reactivate the chlorophyll? Logan explained that, as the colors start to appear, the tree develops a special layer of cells at the point where the stem of the leaf is attached, which gradually severs the connective tissues that hold the leaf to the tree and allows it to fall or be blown off by the wind.

Logan said, “Now, that is the explanation of the ‘how,’ but you ask the even more interesting question of ‘why’ they need to fall off. I don’t know that I can give you a definitive answer, but here is my observation:”

“There appears to be a cycle to life generally, with new life beginning (like it does in the spring), thriving (like in the summer), growing older and changing (the fall) and eventually dying (winter). The cycle repeats itself over and over, with nothing quite the same other than its predictability. It is a process of renewal, as opposed to replication.”

“In addition to sunlight, the trees need water and nutrients, which they get from the ground through their roots. Rain and snow provide the water, but the nutrients need to be replenished. That’s where the fallen leaves come in; over time, they break down and become part of the soil, adding back the nutrients the tree delivered to them during their lifetime. It’s a wonderfully clever system, and a great example of what the humans call ‘recycling.’”

‘But I have to share something that I know will be a disappointment to you, Cadbury. You see, for all your enjoyment and appreciation of the different hues you describe, we as dogs only experience a small portion of the full range of colors nature provides.”

“Like humans, our eyes contain color-sensitive 'cones' and motion- and light-sensitive 'rods' which convert light into electrical signals that are translated by our brains. But dogs have only two types of cones, whereas humans have three. As a result, we cannot distinguish as many colors as they do; we see mostly yellow, blue and gray. Some humans also experience this and call it ‘red-green colorblindness.’”

“Most humans can see a rainbow of color variations including violet, blue, green, yellow, orange and red, which means that they can enjoy the full beauty of the leaves in fall. I do not begrudge that to them; I just hope that they appreciate the wondrous gift they have been given.”

“So now, nephew-of-mine, let’s turn our attention back to our yard, the weather and the glorious experience of just being.”

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