When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time in the woods behind my house--I would make fairy houses out of sticks and moss and climb trees to hide from my brother and his friends. I would hang on the tire swing my father hung over the gully or hide under the little bridge that he built over the creek looking for creepy crawly things.
Sometimes, I would just like to be in the woods doing nothing, sitting on the cool ground and day dreaming. We had a nice size beech tree just on the rise as you got into the woods behind the house and that was one of my usual sitting spots. I could see the house but imagined that the house couldn't see me.
Beech leaves have a simple shape. They are oval and have equally spaced pairs of veins off the stalk. While I was very good at sitting in the woods for long periods of time, my hands have always had to be busy and one of the ways that I would occupy my hands was to mindlessly strip the beech leaf from between the veins. I created piles of beech leaf skeletons.
Young beech trees hang on to their leaves even after all the other leaves in the forest have fallen. The beech leaves turn to brown but they stay on the tree and provide the rustle in the woods when the winter wind blows. Beneath the leaf that clings to the beech branch is a long cigar shaped bud. The leaf, brown and supple, protects the tender bud from the winter.
As winter winds down, the leaf goes from brown to transluscent tan. The picture on the right was taken of a beech grove during the first week of January, the one on the left was taken the third weekend of February. The leaves are barely hanging on--soon the buds will be on their own to make it through the storms of later winter and early spring.