Saturday, November 16, 2013

Transcendent Leaves

“The trees have a lot of leaves this year, Mama. The leaf pile is going to be humongous!” Danielle says. “When will they fall?”

It's August, and the leaves are still green, but Danielle is filled with anticipation.

“Not until fall,” is my reply.

Danielle says, “That’s why fall is called 'fall', cause the leaves fall off the trees!”

*Thinks for a moment.*

“How much longer until fall?”

It goes on like this for quite some time. Finally, the colors start to change, and Danielle gets really excited. She starts peppering me with questions, inspiring this post: The Trees are All Naked Mama!  Although Gabi gets the credit for naming it... 

After the colors changed, Danielle began checking the backyard daily. When the leaves finally started to drop, there's about twelve, she asked for a rake. She piled them all up, and she and Gabi did a test jump.

“We need more leaves,” she declared.

Fall, as Defined by Danielle, is Here!
Finally the leaves start to fall in earnest. Danielle and Gabi rake them up, (Danielle rakes—Gabi holds a rake and moves it around a bit) and they spend the next hour, jumping, burying, throwing, re-raking, and moving the pile.

Thanks to the unseasonably dry, late October and November, we got quite a bit of mileage out of our leaf pile. It was the plaything of choice when Danielle’s friend, Madi, came over to play. They raked up all the new fallen leaves, all the while arguing about who got which rake, into an even bigger heap. Unsatisfied, they eyed the leaves still hanging on the branches. With upturned rakes, they attempt to add the leaves that hadn't seen fit to grace their leaf pile yet.  Still unsatisfied, Madi, climbed up the tree, stood on a branch and bounced her legs, causing the branch to wave, bringing more leaves down.

When the girls tired of piling, jumping, throwing and burying, they loaded the leaves up on a snow sled and dragged them over to the play structure. At the foot of the slide, they made a pile of leaves and pushed some part of the way up. Then they hauled the sled up into the play structure and tobogganed down the slide to land in a big poof of flying leaves. Once the plastic toboggan broke they took turns sliding normally, that was deemed too boring, so they got out our flexible disc sled and gave that a whirl—much to their satisfaction.  I wish I'd gotten a video, it was really something.

For a week or two this went on, Madi knocked on our front door, Danielle dashed up to answer it, and instead of saying, hello, she shouted, “Let’s go in my backyard and play in the leaves!!”

Then they'd go running through the house to the backdoor, wrestle with the kinda-broken screen door, yell for my help, then they'd launch themselves into the backyard. Gabi would usually try to follow, but unfortunately it was usually a no-little-sisters-allowed sort of event, so she and I'd find something else to occupy ourselves.

What is it—Really—About Leaf Piles?
Leaf pile diving is among those quintessential kid activities that transcends generations and culture differences; much like carpet lava with couch cushion stepping stones, and rolling down grassy hills.

It's in Our DNA
I'm fairly certain that prehistoric kids took up bare branches, and raked up piles of fallen leaves.  Then with joined hands, they sprinted and launched themselves into the pile. Laughing, they’d flop backwards, then one would get up and bury the other. The bury-er, likely a big brother, would run into the cave dragging Mom away from the fire pit, where she was frying up mammoth steaks on hot rocks, claiming that a cave lion dragged away his little sister. Mom would eye the rustling leaf pile, feign panic, then little sister would burst out of the pile, to everyone's delight. Then Mom would remember the steaks, and tell her cave kids to get this mess cleaned up before the hunters returned. They'd start raking again, only to feel the magnetic pull of the leaf pile…

A Hypothesis
Yes, the magnetic energy of the leaf pile is indefatigable.  The more massive the the leaf pile the greater the magnetic attraction, and the wider the field.  A large pile can hurl children towards itself from anywhere in our neighborhood; until the leaves are scattered substantially enough to dissipate the attractive force of the pile.

The selective nature of this attraction is interesting, in that it only works on young kids, as older adolescent kids seem to exhibit repellent forces.  ("Awww- do I have to rake the leaves???")  I posit that the chemical/hormone changes endured during puberty sufficiently alters a child's molecular structure, or perhaps redistributes magnetic elements, such that it effectively reverses the child's leaf magnetism polarity.   Further study in this area is necessary...

I must admit that I took a couple experimental dives myself, but since my polarity is that of an adult's, sadly, it had no pull.  Watching those girls play though, was even better than anything I remember from my leaf diving days—it was pure magic.


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