Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Maple leaf aerodynamics

The big-leaf maple grove in front of my window has not really turned its mind to autumn yet. Almost all leaves are still deep green. But a small cousin clinging to the hillside a bit to the north is almost half bright yellow, which means I get to watch the leaves take off.

Because maple leaves don't actually fall so much as soar. I watched one moving horizontally on a brisk autumn breeze until it started moving upward, seeming uninterested in actually ending up on the ground at all. It disappeared past the top of my window on its way toward the roof.

Even without the assistance of wind, maple leaves take their time to get from branch to earth. Something about the broad, irregular shape and the protruding stem permit them to dance once they are free to do so. I'm envious. With my aching back and knees and shoulders, I doubt I will be able to make so free-spirited an exit when the time comes. And I'm almost sure I won't turn brilliant yellow to make a final bright flash on my way out. So I guess the best I can do is to applaud those who know how to go out with a flourish. And the show this year is only beginning.


  1. I had to go to Beaverton today and had quite a pleasant ride through many tree-rich areas. Some of the trees seem to get their fall color in patches. Could it be the way some of us grow gray hair a little here, a little there--hardly ever all at once?

    Would that be a photo of you as a tot that we're seeing here?

    1. That photo is indeed me. I actually still have the stuffed toy I'm holding in the picture, which is notable, since I don't have many keepsakes.

  2. The mighty oak that lives next door, sheds her leaves mostly in my yard. They are similar to your maple tree, as her leaves also float and play. Once the leaves are all gone, we can see all the life that she has held there! Bird's nests, squirrels who still scamper all over her limbs, and the occasional neighborhood cat.

  3. I'm going to start taking a closer look at the maple trees around here. After reading your post, I learned that the big-leaf maple is also known as the Oregon maple and seems to occur only on the west coast of the US and some of Canada. Nice to have some of them to look at!