We met for this session at Wootton Bridge car park, which isn't on the Isle of Wight, but is in fact near Wilverley Plain and the village of Sway. The summer sunshine was beating down fiercely, so it was a very welcome location that we picked a few minutes walk away, still beside the stream, under some large trees away from the picnickers and children and dogs enjoying the shallow 'beach' near the car park.
We started with a reading about the function of leaves, how they are the 'factories' of the tree producing the food they need to survive and grow. Hearing about how the liquid nutrients are drawn up from the roots into the leaves where the power of sunlight (and chlorophyll) turns them into food for the tree, Alistair penned this poem.
Sky and dirt
the green machinery of life
left running for a billion years
uninterrupted and un-stilled;
the silent services fulfilled, unmetered
and delivered free by every leaf
on every tree and every green grass blade.
this genius of creative flair,
fuelled with photons fed on air,
an interchange of sky and dirt,
a marriage made in heaven and earth,
and mediated through a tree.
Time for contemplation
It is thought that as the majority of tropical trees have leaves that have smooth edges, due to the need to retain moisture (greater surface area would lead to higher transpiration rate and dehydration in toothed/wavy margin leaves), that trees adapted as they moved to colder climates. Jagged margins allow for a greater rate of photosynthesis (for the same reason, a greater surface area) so the tree can stock up on food more quickly as Spring arrives in a habitat with a short growing season (cooler temperatures).
The same species of tree can also develop differently-shaped leaves according to their geographical location, does this somehow also reflect how we respond differently according to our environment? Scientists can examine fossil records and use leaf margin patterns to learn about temperatures on earth many years ago, this is also used in climate change research.
The challenge set was to spend some time finding a leaf that had margins that somehow represented us, whether in terms of what we project to the world, or how we respond spiritually to the 'food' we receive and 'climate' we are currently in. The inspiration for this was a personal meditation that God took me on, showing me how, as much as I wished my life to have nice smooth edges, and be a symmetrical and simple 'shape', this was not my reality - and actually the result was a life that, designed by God, could be so much more interesting and more fruitful than ever I imagined.
We all came back to share a variety of different leaves, including some unexpected mint leaves, and a kingfisher spotting!