Marshland colour

The blackberry leaves are turning, in their turn

For a Canadian expatriate, the more brilliant the red leaf is, the more homesickness intrudes. But yesterday afternoon you didn’t have to be a reminiscing Canadian to experience the delight of the blackberry leaves turning crimson, branch by branch.

I remember when the new Canadian flag was first mooted. Schoolchildren were urged to create their own designs, and I seem to recall that we all riffed on an array of maple leaves, some ten in total (representing the provinces and territories of the dominion) which was spread like outstretched fingers across the landscape, bordered on each side by a swathe of blue to represent the sea. I think that design was in the running right up to the final announcement of the big bold single leaf bordered by even more red. Now, of course, every travelling Canadian tends to emblazon their gear with the red maple leaf flag to distinguish themselves from their continental neighbours to the south.

Anyway, here in the Glen Kens, it’s the blackberry’s turn to shine, and startle it certainly does. Why, we wondered, do entire branches of the plant decide to turn crimson all at once, while their neighbour stays green? We’ll have to watch the huge blackberry jungle, over the next while, to see how the autumnal change affects the population as a whole. Perhaps it’s something to do with exposure: the turned leaves are, after all, on branches that arch proud out of the patch.

Gosh, I’m really tempted to make something out of these observations, but I’m tempered by the realisation that pretentiousness lies on the other side of that metaphor. And considering the quintessential ‘niceness’ of the Canadian mentality, that would hardly do.

I’m betting, however, that those leaves which turn red first will also be the first to flutter away in the chilling breezes as winter sets in. Who was it who exclaimed, ‘Live fast — die young!’ Some rock and roll god, no doubt. On the whole, I’m perfectly content to live slow and die rather older. Let me be a leaf on the lower branches, then, snuggled in with my peers, hanging on until winter bites in earnest.

In the meantime, I’ll enjoy the flashy display of those leaves that have gone before.

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