Nature in a class of its own

My dad is a Yorkshireman with a lifelong passion for the countryside. He would pull on his flat cap and walking boots, grab one of the many walking sticks he whittled himself out of hazel, call the dogs to his side, and set off, striding through the heather so fast I'd have to half-run to keep up. He wasn't one for chatting but he would always point out landmarks of interest as he proudly surveyed his beloved North York Moors. Once he told me that his favourite time of year was very early Spring when brand new leaves first unfurl on the trees, "I love the colour" he explained, "it's a soft pale green that lets in the light and reminds us that Spring is coming."  He is 92 now and his walking days are over but when I see the new leaves begin to unravel on the trees I always think of him.  Since the Autumn I've had a pile of oak, horse chestnut and beech leaves lying on our hall windowsill. I gathered them up on my walks in October and they have laid there drying out and curling around each other into beautiful shapes. They survived Christmas and the bin (narrowly!) and I didn't spray them with gold (although I did think about it for a nanosecond!). Now I'm looking at them again and once more marvelling at their beauty, individuality and fragility; these are leaves at the end of their life and, as organic shapes go, they really are in a class of their own ... irresistible and inspirational.