19 May 2014: Leaf Litter

“The fallen leaves blanket the ground.”

My first thought is a cliche, but also metaphor. An anthropomorphism, slipping it into human terms.

One view: The oval leaves fallen in the spring lying on top of the mulch and dirt laid down by previous gardeners. An association I make leads to a question, did the Clovis people honor the trees in fashioning stone or is it a matter of parallel convergence.

Another view: The starlings pace across the square, scattering the leaves with quick motions of their beaks to forage what lies beneath.

Another view: An ant crawls across a leaf, foraging for something. The eggs of competitors? Fungal blooms? Seeds?

An inferred view: Fungi and bacteria digesting the leaves, a different species for each polymer. Others scavenge the scant remains of oils, waxes, and proteins. Viruses and spores wait for new growth to emerge through the litter. Carnivorous fungi set snares for nematodes and flatworms. Promiscuous mycelia not quite in season to bloom into mushrooms. Slime molds wait for the signal to gather in orange masses frequently mistaken for puke. Only a small fraction of this world has ever been cultivated onto pure media.

Another inferred view: The stretching branches of the oaks themselves, as expansive below ground as above. If I was rude enough to dig, I might find truffles, the white mats of associated puffballs, inky caps, and stinkhorns. I’d find roots stretching out engaged in chemical and biological warfare against competing species.

As with many things, the leaf litter is a fractal, going down to the chemical and atomic.


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