Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

The Fall of the Leaf

the sun gleaming through yellow leaves on a tree in fall

Hello fellow readers, Thanks to those who reached back after last week’s story with curiosities about my book underway; the working title is The Lesson of the Leaf. Its theme is maneuvering through overlapping losses that happen in the later seasons of our lives. For some, they come early. My hope is to share the healing, growth, and serenity that come from observing and learning from the rhythms of nature and our gardens.

a hand holding a cluster of emerging oak leaves.

I came upon clusters of emerging oak leaves on Easter afternoon bringing the story of a Litter of Tree Tips.

Leaves have a cycle much like our lives.

Leaves have a cycle much like our lives. There’s a respite spot I used to frequent when living in Boonton, NJ, in the early summer of my life. I’d lie on my back atop a picnic table at the top of the Tourne Park, cooling down from a run there, and marvel at the unfolding leaves against the blue sky in early spring. Virgin leaves. Each time they’d grow a bit bigger. They’re tender to the touch when new. Then they toughen up as they grow, preparing themselves for the sweltering heat ahead.

In the thick of summer, they begin to show signs of endurance. Holes from insects. Bumps or browning from fungus and wounds from deer browsing on those low enough to be reached. As late summer looms, a few leaves shift in color. Some entirely so, then drop to the ground early. Ready to serve their next purpose—to fertilize our dear earth.

a hand holding a small maple leaf in orange and red fall colors and a golden retriever in the water

As late summer looms, a few leaves shift early.

Then the other leaves join them in fall, shifting in a sequence of colors. First, yellow, followed by orange, and ending with red leaves. It’s during the mid-fall season, when all the colors overlap, that we enjoy the peak color performance. The ideal conditions for stunning fall colors are a moist growing season followed by a dry fall with sunny, warm days and cool nights. But the weather isn’t always ideal.

In the fall of our lives, we see things shifting as we age.
a large tan oak leaf held in a woman's hand and a white dog with black ears in the background.

Some leaves are not part of the rainbow but become a rich tawny tan.

Some leaves never are part of the rainbow but turn straight to tawny tan or brown. Then they fall. Others cling to the trees until spring, when the budding new leaves release the old.

The sound of rustling leaves as they fall that crunch as you walk. Rain comes, and they soften and begin to smell like peas inviting worms and others to help them decompose back into the earth, bringing all the nutrients from the sun and the rains they absorbed.

In the fall of our lives, we see things shifting as we age. But what appears to be declining is part of our growth. And we cannot force it, and we cannot prevent it,  just as we cannot make seeds sprout in early spring. If we look at our changes as we mature, accepting them as part of the cycle of nature— of life that returns each season with a new season of growth, we understand that we’re part of this life and, therefore, always will be. Because the cycle of life never ends.

The Fall of Freddie the Leaf

There’s a classic children’s book titled The Fall of Freddie the Leaf. I came upon it long ago while waiting to speak with my grief counselor, Diana Sebzda, who became the Director of Bereavement (I called her the Queen of Grief) of the Joseph T. Quinlan Bereavement Center before retiring this year. She’ll forever remain my friend.

a fallen brown dry oak leaf lying in snow And while the book by Leo Buscaglia is meant for children. It’s “A Story of Life for All Ages,” as the subtitle describes. While Freddie the Leaf feared letting go of his tree, his friend Daniel explained that we don’t fear spring turning to summer, and we don’t fear fall. So why should we fear the winter season of our lives?

Freddie was the last leaf on the tree, and when he finally let go, he had the most magnificent, soft landing into the snow that felt warm. And for the first time, he could see the whole tree and felt proud to be part of it.

Wishing all of you a Blessed Thanksgiving. Garden Dilemmas? and your favorite Podcast App.

There’s more to the story in Episode 83 of the Garden Dilemmas Podcast.

Link to the previous story about the Lesson of the Leaf

More about Leo Buscaglia’s classic The Fall of Freddie the Leaf


Mary Stone, owner of Stone Associates Landscape Design & Consulting. As a Landscape Designer, I am grateful for the joy of helping others beautify their surroundings which often leads to sharing encouragement and life experiences. These relationships inspired my weekly column published in THE PRESS, 'Garden Dilemmas? Ask Mary', began in 2012. I dream of growing the evolving community of readers into an interactive forum to share encouragement and support in Garden and Personal Recoveries - seeking nature’s inspirations, stimulating growth, weeding undesirables, embracing the unexpected. Thank you for visiting! Mary
  1. Mary Cafarelli Reply

    So glad to hear you’re writing a book! Please keep us posted as to publication date!

    • Mary Stone Reply

      I will, Mary, Thanks for your words of encouragement and for reading my column all these years :^)

Leave a Reply


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.