God’s works of art

Every fall, we are treated to a very special time of the year . . . when the leaves change colors.

Each autumn, the different hues are beyond anything a mere person could create. The oranges, off-greens, reds and magentas are only colors that God could create.

We often complain that Nebraska isn’t beautiful like some other states – but in the fall, I beg to differ. All we have to do is take a few seconds to look around us and it truly is breathtaking.

When I was a kid, we didn’t have many television opportunities because we had just an inkling of reception. That was often the case because the weird giant antenna we had in the back yard would turn in the wind and all signal would be lost.

So in an effort to entertain us, particularly in the fall, my mother turned us on to a new avenue that kept us occupied for hours. Instead of mind-numbing staring at an electronic device, she had us out in the cool air, breathing in the fall and creating something of our own.

The initial assignment was to collect as many beautiful, intact leaves as we could. The more colorful, the better.

My siblings and I would run around our yard and at that of the grandparents, visiting all the groves we could hit. We would look for the most exquisite pieces of tree art we could find and gingerly put them in shoeboxes for the trip home.

Once at the house, we’d display our finds in a competitive way – arguing which was the best. Quite frankly, in a good year, they were all amazing.

Then, Mom would pull out the old, worn ironing board, along with a box of waxed paper, darning needles, yarn, a scissors and old boxes made of thin cardboard.

With eyes open wide (mostly because we were surprised she had such knowledge of art work and weren’t aware she’d taken classes in elementary education before I surprisingly graced her life), we watched her perform magic.

Our mother would take one of the biggest, most special leaves, and place it between two pieces of wax paper. Then, with a warm iron, would press it. What it left behind was a sheet of paper, if you will, with the leaf properly sealed inside.

She would have us trim the edges of the waxed paper so they were about the same size and half-way even.

Mom would iron and iron and iron away, as we each labeled our own pile of leaves (so no one else could claim our finds).

Once all the leaves were preserved, she would lace the yarn through the darning needles. Then we’d sew our pages of leaves together. Sure, the craftsmanship was questionable – we were kids after all. Our seams weren’t straight, our stitches weren’t even. Sometimes there were knots.

But we were creating something original.

Mom would cut the thin cardboard (often from cereal boxes) to create squares. Then we’d paste paper over the top and use crayons to draw whatever we wanted.

She’d then fasten the cardboard to our piles of leaf sheets – proclaiming that we’d each just published a book that was full of God’s art.

Mom loved her books and one of her favorite features inside our tiny house was the book shelf in the living room. It was her space – really her only personal space – and no one was allowed to place anything there unless it had her stamp of approval.

She would exclaim that we should place our “books” on her shelf, so our father could see how talented we were when he returned home. It was with great pride that I placed my book on the shelf – the book with the cover covered in scribbles that said, “My Leaves, by Melanie.”

Of course, our father feigned astonishment at our talents and said he was impressed.

As I got older, the job of pressing those leaves became mine. I’ll admit, the outcome wasn’t as good. Sometimes I’d iron them too long, which would result in burned wax paper and ripped up leaves. But it was still a wonderful autumn activity that taught us to appreciate God’s art – and our limited abilities as well.

It’s funny how something as simple as a single blood-red tree in the middle of an open field can trigger my memory back so many years. I don’t think I even have an iron that works; the last time I saw my ironing board it had a giant hole in the middle with a broken leg; I don’t own a darning needle; and I don’t feel much like trespassing on someone’s land to snag a leaf to make “a leaf book.”

But there’s still a little voice inside my head, each and every fall, that whispers, “Make sure to notice the beauty around you.”

I guess that’s what Mom wanted us to know more than anything else – only God can create art such as that.


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