Amongst the Leaves

This is some writing describing what happened yesterday – Mum and Dad made a rope bridge from one tree to the next on the large earthy place with a wide gravel path running round it which we call ‘the island’. What I will write is perfectly accurate, excepting that the sunset described was actually seen later as I was eating tea, not on the rope bridge. But I did see it start up there, and have blended the two parts of sunset together to help along the story. Also, the tree is not quite as leafy as it appears to be in the first few sentence.

From amongst the dark foliage, a red hardcover book, clearly old, and with thin pages, drops down and lands with a thud and a little flurry of soil upon the springy turf. It is quickly followed by a foot, clothed in a high brown boot in the style which was worn in the victorian period, and laced all the way up, which sets itself upon a rough nub in the bark. Another foot and the bottom of a pink cotton skirt, patterned with lily-of-the-valley, red daises and other flowers, soon emerge.

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Then, the whole figure jumps lightly down with the help of a rope-ladder and the rough bark which has in it many footholds. She is clothed in a dress the bottom of which has been already described, and also an olive green cord jacket with a modest frill along the line of buttons, and a little motif that matched her skirts upon the right arm. Her hair is chin-length, glossy and dark, and somewhat wild after her long repose in the tree. She picks up the red book, and skips merrily away toward the house that stands nearby. 

She is gone; let us approach and view the spot that she had left. Around eight feet from the ground – nine in some places – a bridge of ropes hung across two forking evergreens. It was simply constructed, with two ropes for hand rails, and two more below, lashed together with another rope which also made some large triangles along the sides, forming sort of walls.  

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On one side of the first tree hung a rope ladder – on the other a knotted rope, and some little wooden steps which had clearly also played a part in the accent were lying about, half fallen over, at the foot of the tree.

It had been Mother’s idea – and once thought of it was soon carried out – as soon, that is, as was possible in a house inhabited by two young boys. The convenient forks in the trees made it an easy task to preform, and soon, the little girl whom we just saw, had ascended up by means of the knotted rope. 

It was lovely – truly lovely – to sit upon the swaying ropes, feeling the at some moments awful, but in all incredible, feeling of being there, actually in the air so far above the heads of the adults who waited, looking up, at the bottom of the trees. After looking her fill at the ground and the faces below, she glanced upward then, and there was a certain shock in doing so. A moment ago she had been triumphantly looking down, thinking how wonderful it was she that was up there, where only birds had been destined to go; now, she was reminded by the dizzying stretch of branches above, of how small and insignificant she yet remained compared with these great things of nature – that however wonderful a thing you might think you had done, Gia had endless wonders and great things still left to humble you with. 

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The many trunks shooting upwards made the same mighty and serene impression  upon you as the great pillars of temple might, and the layers of branches all fanned out from the trunk like a peacock’s tail. The evening sun shone upon the bark of the trees, which was painted green with lichen, and made patterns with shade and light upon the ground far below.

As she rocked there, upon the ropes, the evening drew on, closer, and softly, night dropped a grey veil over the sunny garden. In the west, streaks of soft Tiepolo pink floated across the soft blue sky like veils, till the whole sky was streaked with pink, blue, and in some places even a little yellowish green. The ‘blue isles of heaven’ were a burst of gentle colour, and in what, had the sky been a dome, would have been the highest point, was a graceful, fragile moon, looking down with a serene grace upon the world, and upon that little girl, perched there among the trees. No doubt it favoured her – for the moon’s personification was Artemis – and she favours all climbers, all who value nature, especially trees. 

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It Is the First Mild Day of March

Yesterday, was ‘the first mild day of March’ i.e, the first warm day of that season, which we always celebrate by reading aloud Wordsworth’s poem, which goes

‘It is the first mild day of March, 

Each moment sweeter than before, 

The redbreast sings from the tall larch

That stands beside our door. 

There is a blessing in the air, 

That seems a sense of joy to yield, 

The the bare trees and mountains bare, 

And the grass in the green field.

And so on. I know there are some people who would claim that Spring does not begin until near the end of March, but every novel, piece of poetry, or garden, for that matter, is against these people – and I am too. At least –  I am against them in the sense that I do not believe early March is never Spring, nor do I believe it is always so. I believe that when green bulbs are shooting up from the ground – when the sky is blue without a cloud, when the bare trees are budding and primroses grow round our feet, it is Spring. It is this which defines when that lovely season comes – not any number on the calendar. The poem which brought us onto this topic itself argues this, and clearly with the disputed right March has to be often called the first month of Spring in mind –

‘No joyless forms shall regulate

Our living calendar:

We from to-day, my friend, will date

The opening of the year’

Let me continue – we had a lovely day. Mum and Granny brought out some little plastic cases for plants with parcels of compost that puff up when you put warm water on them inside, and we put planted some vegetable seeds in in them. I made some labels to stick on the top of the plastic lids so we knew which plants were which. It is so exiting to think it will soon be Summer again, with the garden as lush and green as Paradise, or the Elysian Fields.

I will take this opportunity of copying in a part of A Macclesfield Maiden (a semi-autobiography I am writing) that describes the garden in the months of May and June, for I think it is necessary for the readers of my blog to get some idea of what it looks like.

It was apring, and the garden was leafy, green and blooming. The white paint of the old Georgian house was radiant amid its leafy trimming, and the large bay-windows glinted in the morning sun. The rose shrubs were dotted over with blooms of every shade of pink, and glossy leaves shone in harmony with the polished windows. The mossy lawn was all sprinkled with daises and speedwell, and little clover. The buttercups looked like tiny golden cups of radiant sunlight. Above the lawn was a patch of grass which would later in the year blossom into a wild meadow, white with oxeye daisies and dotted with the pink of ragged robin and red champion. Then the whole thing would be a tangle of bright, loose, flowing flowers and grasses. Now, before the stage of flowery glory, it had a softer beauty; one could see the deferent shapes of the leaves; ferny vetch, bitter salad burnet, common clover, and the tiny, delicate little leaves of the honey-golden birds foot trefoil. And here and there among the delicate leaves you might find a little treasure; a small flower, burning with brightest colours. The meadow in its early days looked very much like a detail of grass around the feet of the three graces in the Primavera. The painting shows with so much detail the grace of the ferny leaves and long-stemmed tiny flowers that grow amongst them. 

At the top of this flowery patch of ground was a wide cobbled place. If you turned off this area to the left, you were in a parterre hedged with box and rosemary, with gravel paths, and a monument edged with time and topped with a grecian stone vase. If you continued straight a head, you entered into another garden, walled by somewhat crumbling yorkshire stone, and slightly shaded by the overhanging branches of the elm trees. The sun shone through the green elm leaves so that they looked like pale stained glass in a church window. Two beds edged this garden, both full of rich soil, and full of many plants. At the top of the garden was a small stone area with fruit trees growing along the wall at the back of it. But now we must travel back down the garden, and turn our faces once more to the green lawn, for it is there that we will find our heroine. Do you see the bright lawn once more, with its rose bushes and herbs, and the great white house behind it?

On a little grassy hill, with her head just under a branch of one of the taller rose bushes, a little girl sat, quietly reading. She had crisply curling shoulder-length hair of deep brown, the colour of fresh, rich garden soil, and the sun was shining upon it so brightly that it gave it a bright sheen like polished copper. Her eyes were of a clear sky blue; they looked just like the sky. She lowered her book, and looked around her and bright, shining garden.

Now, can you all picture the garden round my house?

Hear are some photos of yesterday

And

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That low wall in front of the grassy hill is where the girl in the story (me) was sitting. Notice the rose bushes.

Is not that crocus exquisitely lovely? Look at the delicate stripes up the petals – a bit like leaf skeletons, or like the topmost branches of the copper beech when they seem to net together.  That crocus, and another one which is shown in the ‘featured image’, are actually as old as the copper beech. I mean, of course they haven’t had flowers on them all through those many winters, but their bulbs are as old as the copper beech. There used to be lots and then someone dumped a load of earth on top to make the ground flatter, and only these have managed to grow through. It is astonishing how much people these days seem to like covering up beautiful things. I didn’t mention it in the post, but Steve and Julie told us that the beautiful old oak door which I described in ‘Bronte Country’ used to be covered in chip-board, and they had to scrape it all off. Can you believe that! And when we first came to our house, people had put tarmac all over the old cobbles, and gravel over the paving stones. I do not think it is fair to the people who lived long ago to cover up all their work – or to nature to cover up her work.

I do not wish to end this entry with complaining, so I will make one more description of the loveliness of our day.

It  is truly incredible in how bright a mood a bright day can put me – the sunlight in the air seems to flow inside and light my very soul. I am truly blessed to have such a wonderful garden, however much people may have tried to ruin it with tarmac and gravel. How lovely it is to roam about it, looking at the primroses and the daffodils and snowdrops and crocuses, and to sit upon the soft, spongey moss that grows amongst the grass.

Note for those who are impatient to hear more about Bronte Country: I have not completely neglected the story of our trip to Ponden Hall – I am actually writing another entry about it. But I will not be posting much of anything for a few days, because I am trying to get the second half of the art essay done for my art course. When I do, I will publish that on here.

The Tree That Has Seen Many Times

I was out in the garden earlier – evening was falling, and I was spending some time with the copper-beech. It is a wonderful tree – in so many ways wonderful. I have written this about the experience.

She puts her arms as far as they can reach around the trunk – it is not very far. The huge trunk must be at least three times as wide as any other tree in the garden – except perhaps the yew – a great old tree, dark, spooky and scraggy, which like the beach had no doubt seen many times. Lightly, she feels along the rough bark with her small fingers. The great trunk of the tree is full of many gashes and blemishes, some of which look like long ago they might have been a name carved into the trunk when the tree was young, and have now become illegible from its growing.

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She looks upward, ever upward, following with her eyes the knotty, twisted, winding trunk as it turns and branches upward toward the sky. Looking up like this gives her a strange, dizzying feeling, like looking up a staircase of time. The dark twigs are silhouetted against the faintly darkening blue sky, and one branch has some withered leaves upon it that have stayed attached all through the winter. A few lines of Tennyson come into her head. They described an oak tree, but they were perfect for describing the beech as well – ‘And the solemn oak tree sigheth, thick leaved, ambrosial, with ancient melody of inward agony’. She thinks – and it was a thought that her mind could hardly hold – how many hands must have touched the bark which she touched now – a Georgian or Victorian lady, perhaps, in a wide crinoline and lace sleeves. Was there ever another, she wonders, who loves you, tree, as I do?  I wonder…….. She puts her foot upon a knot near the bottom of the trunk, and raises herself so she can see over the hedge and into the neighbour’s garden. I am on the edge of two gardens, she thinks, and able to see into both, as you, great tree, are on the edge of two times, and able to see into both. How odd a thought that is…

Oh, how lovely, a little robin! – as one of the red-breasted birds flew up from a bush on the other side on the hedge with a little flurry of brown wings.

She now remembered – alas –  that there was tea to be eaten, and with a word of farewell, she turned to run up the grassy path. As she ran, she took a glance behind her at the tree, and a memory came back to her  – of a day when she had been sitting by the radiator, looking out the window. It seemed to her then, that the bare rose bushes in the garden and the view behind them were stirring and and waving and rippling like a reflection in the water. Her  mother told her that this was the tapestry of time being blown around – that it might one day be thrown right back for a moment, and she might have a glimpse of the past behind it. Her father told her that it was not magic – that it was the heat-waves from the radiator that made it look odd. But she had always half believed it was the time tapestry, especially when, as she was playing in the garden, and nowhere near a heater, it seemed to her that it again happened.  

So she almost expected, despite knowing it to be impossible, that she would see the beech wave and dip as had happened before, when she  looked back. But she did not.  

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Snowy Beech and Snowy Garden

As usual, the snow has to wait for March (which, according to Wordsworth, and many other poets is supposed to be full of spring flowers) before it comes. But it is lovely when it does. It has been snowing all day here – and I’ve written a little description while watching it.

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The beach stands tall like a great white fountain with a net of snowy branches crossing each other – silver as the moon. The snowflakes whirl down around it – great and soft like feathers – falling, falling, falling. Gazing up into the great grey sky I see them twirling and dancing – the feeling is incredible – I am sucked into a mist of white.

The snow covers the tops of the bushes like custard – the rose hips look as red in the snow as the drop of blood from the finger of Snow-White’s mother must have done when it fell into the same substance. Far away, more silver branches net together – a cloudy mistiness seems to hide everything that’s at all in the distance. The grass is gracefully bent down under the wight of the snow; the roofs of the houses are white – every moment I expect the snow queen to come rushing out of one of those clusters of snowy trees, a silver cloak flapping behind her. 

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And now, I think I’ll copy in a bit of Arthurian Legend I tried to retell a while ago – a snowy scene about the meeting of Arthur and Guinevere.

She stopped and dismounted from the white steed, weary from long riding, and stood for a while in the cold, crisp snow, looking about her at the branches of the trees, ebony black against the cold white snow, and bare of leaves. The forest glimmered and glinted, alive with sparkle, and the air was crisp and cold and brilliant. Guinevere stood still, stunned by the icy beauty of it all. Beside her hung icicles, clear and sharp and dangerous; dripping water in little droplets from their sharp pointes onto the smooth white snow. She noted the glazed and shining sides, how the frost made rough white swirling patterns on the smooth clear glassiness of them. Then softly, very softly, the snow began to fall like large soft feathers onto the white ground. Those flakes were strange things; soft and gentle, yet dangerous, icy and able to freeze anything that Winter wished to add to Her riches. Guinevere shivered in a sudden cold.

Through the slivery trunks of a forest of birches, she saw the hart pursued by the hunt, leaping between the braches, agile, elegant, graceful, and yet pathetic, and suddenly she felt a pang of pity for the poor creature, hunted for its life. Why do they hunt it? What harm has it ever done them? Do they feel no pity, ever, when they catch the game? Do they never think, never stop to admire its courage, its bravery to run so far and so fast in terror? I were hunted, they would surely take pity on me

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Then she saw a steel-tipped arrow sail through the air between the trees and pierce the downy-smoothness of the deer’s fur, and a drop of reddest blood fell upon the crisp white snow. A tear fell from her clear blue eyes, and as it dropped noiselessly upon the white snow it melted the sparkling ice crystals. She idly broke of an icicle from the rock above her, and held it pointing towards her heart, though she did not know it was so, sharp pointed like a dagger in her small white hands. Water dripped from the sharp point and froze in the air, for it was so cold. There was something wrong today … And yet, in a strange sort of way, she felt joyful as well. It was all so beautiful; the snow fell, the crystals glinted, sunlight flashed on the icicles hanging from the trees. The day was so still, and so cold, and so magical.

Then through the trees she saw the deer, lying amongst the blood on the snow, and her tears fell again, till the icicle she was holding melted and fell – a trickle of water on her white silk gown. Snow fell softly on the trees, and on Guinevere.

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Arthur found himself separated from the hunt. The snowy trees looked almost identical, the paths twisted and wound, and the hart leaped through white trees and bushes and was hard to follow. His black charger was silhouetted against the softly falling snow as it reared and leaped. Arthur loosed another arrow blindly into the snow, not knowing whether it hit his quarry or not. He could no longer control his horse. It ran wild, as if sensing approaching danger. Somehow he too felt a sense of doom as he followed the winding paths, deeper and deeper into the wood. With every twist and bend and twirl of the path, the suspense seemed layered on his heart. He rounded one more bend and braced himself for whatever terrible thing lay ahead; for he was sure it was terrible. But it wasn’t terrible at all. 

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A maiden dressed in smooth white silk stood ankle deep in snow. Snow was piled up around her in a thousand diamond glints, and icicles hung like daggers above her head. Sunlight shone behind her as it shines from the Madonna’s   halo in Renaissance paintings, and trees stood like silver fountains around her.  The maiden herself, white-faced and white-gowned amongst the white, white snow, with an embroidered silver cloak hanging behind her, was hardly visible but for her red lips, dark hair and shining eyes. Snow fell softly around her and onto her smooth, lovely dark hair, but the flaxes simply melted into drops of dewy water beading her hair like jewels, for she was a warm; warm of body and warm hearted, despite the icy cold snow that surrounded her. He saw that tears were running down her pale face, and her eyes were glazed and shining with wonder. One hand held her white silken skirts in graceful waves above the snow, and the other was held unconsciously touching her heart. Arthur blinked in the blinding light that it seemed to him had suddenly flooded the clearing. He stared into her beautiful eyes, ever-changing from indigo to violet like the shadows on the snow, her lips as red had been the drop of blood from the deer, her face so coldly perfect.

She did not seem to see Arthur; she kept on gazing straight ahead of her as though in a trance. Then her eyes flickered for a moment, and narrowed as they fell upon the handsome youth in hunting clothes in front of her, who stood and gazed at her, one hand controlling the coal black stallion at his side. She looked at him blankly, her face sad and cold and completely bare of feeling, as if to say: ‘Why are you staring at me? Go your way and leave me to my grieving.’ Aloud she said: ‘I see you found your prey,’ and her voice was like a mix of ice and fire. Arthur did not reply. Suddenly he felt dizzy, dazzled by his own emotion. ‘The deer lies yonder; do you not see the blood on the snow?’ There was coldness in her voice that made him feel as if his heart had been pierced by one of the sharp icicles that hung beside her. Why did it hurt him so? Why did he feel so strange and wonderful?

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He stood there, staring at the dazzling white snow, and the maiden’s dazzling beauty. A single burning flame seemed suddenly to light in his heart, and his eyes blurred with strange tears so he saw nothing but the glitter of snow. Then a shaft of sunlight burst through the trees and fell upon the snowy maiden, at it was as if she was made of ice, for she seemed to melt before Arthur’s very eyes, and when he saw her again she was riding far away from him, and from the snowy wood, side-saddle upon the gilded leather of her snow white stallion. Arthur stayed for some minutes staring at where the lady had stood, staring, staring after her, watching her till she was out of sight. A drop of snow fell from the sliver-fountain-branches of the snowy trees, and settled on Arthur’s hands. A little, white, snowflake. A tiny, trivial thing that did not seem to matter; we brush away snowflakes from our clothes all winter, without a thought. Yes, a tiny trivial thing; but beautiful. Very, very beautiful, and full of meaning.

He stared at that solitary snowflake for some time, and watched it melt on the warmness of his hands, and he had watched Guinevere melt into the snowy silence of the forest. His eyes stared blankly, seeing nothing, deep in thought. Then he jerked himself suddenly back into real life; like one awaking from a dream, and, looking about  him as if he saw the world clearly for the first time, turned his horse and rode away, and for the moment thought no more of it than that he had seen a pretty girl in forest.

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As for Guinevere, strange to say, she thought of him far more than he thought of her, but her thoughts were all of contempt. Perhaps things would have been different if they first met when King Leodegrance presented her formally as his daughter in the warm, crowded hall, when he knew who she was, and what she was. But that was not the way Arthur’s fate unwound. It is almost a contradiction when you say – ‘it was fate that they should meet by accident’- but it is true. There are some who say they should never have met each other, for Arthur was made of a solid, human thing, that people could trust and understand, whereas Guinevere was hollow. Not selfish or untruthful, exactly, but hollow. There is some truth in this, but not much. Both Arthur and Guinevere were solid, and what went on between them was perfectly truthful, but not the same as understandable, and not known. People have tried to find out many times, and have never succeeded. And they will keep on trying, but I do not think they will ever succeed. Mark my words; that does not mean it is a waste to try. It is not a waste at all. And that is why I myself am going to try, because the only way to find out, it to write about it.

 

Now, here are some snowy photos I have just taken.

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Poetry and Photographs

Today I’m posting a poem I’ve written about this time of year, with some photos of the garden to go with it. Here it is:

The air is crisp and frosty, with sharp edge,

The sunlight shines full golden on the ground,

It melts the frost, and bares a greener hue.

The atmosphere is bright and brilliant blue;

Nestling among the grass, a million water drops,

Like little diamonds glisten, shine, and flash.

And not one snowy cloud does blot the sun,

By bite of cold the day is not undone.

 

 Spring comes, she melts a path though ice and sleet,

Upon the ground she scatters flowers and light,

Though through the trees the harsh cold wind does blow,  

Still, up from stark bare ground, the snowdrops grow

So pure, so fair, with silver needle leaves.

Then straight stand daffodils, with yellow dresses bright,

And crocus-cups, filled up with slanting sunlight show,

And in the breeze they wave, they dance; they blow.

Now  for the photos:

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‘And crocus cups, filled up with slanting sunlight show’

IMG_7885Still, up from stark bare ground, the snowdrops grow

So pure, so fair, with silver needle leaves.

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‘Then straight stand daffodils, with yellow dresses bright’

 

 

Nestling among the grass, a million water drops,

Like little diamonds glisten, shine, and flash.

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‘Upon the ground she scatters flowers and light’

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These dew drops are not on grass, so are not actually related to the poem, but they are so pretty I decided to put them in anyway

 

 

 

First signs of spring

These photographs were taken in the garden yesterday, on a January evening. I was out with my brother playing, and as the evening was beautiful I borowed my dad’s phone and took some photos. The smallish brick house with the sun and shadow on it and the plant pots by the door is where I live, and the doorway of the larger house with the fanlight above the door is my grandmother’s house. Both houses share the shame garden. The little boy walking up the lawn in the picture of my house is my brother, Tasgall.

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Preserving Leaves

Many times in Autumn I have strolled out along the wet grass and found blown into the hedge a single perfect leaf, in which a sensational mixture of beautiful reds, golds, and browns, flow into each other. It makes you sad to think that in few days, that gorgeous leaf may be tattered, sodden and ragged, rotting away into the mud. But there is a way of saving such perfect specimens of autumn leaves from this melancholy fate.

Leaf preserving is great fun; you can gather the beautiful red and gold leaves while the sun shines and the garden is radiant with gold, and then when one of those cold and windy autumn days was playing outside is out of question comes along, you can do the preserving part.

We tried two ways of preserving leaves but the only really successful one involved glycerine, which is thick liquid that comes in bottles. The instructions for preserving in glycerine are as follows

1 Place all the leaves you have gathered in a large bowl or tray

2 pour in two jars of water, half a jar or less of washing up liquid and one of glycerine. There ought to be enough liquid to cover all the leaves. If not, rinse out the jar with more water and pour it into the bowl/tray

3 press a plate down over leaves and water, (firmly but no so hard that the mixture rushes out over the plate), and leave it.

4 leave to sit for around two or three days ( we left ours in for much longer than this by mistake and they came out perfectly fine, so don’t worry, but try to have them out before four days if possible)

5 take leaves out and dry carefully, one by one.

Tip (it works best of yellow or gold leaves as the glycerine can sometimes take colour out of the red and pink ones)

 

After you have given your leaves the proper treatment they should stay as though freshly picked, or perhaps a little squashier, for at least several months and possibly years (I do not know because we only finished our leaves a few months ago.

The second method of preserving leaves did not work as well; therefore I shall not bother to give exact instructions for how we did it. The place from which we got the idea suggested laying the leaves between two layers of grease paper and then iorning them. This ought to have made the two pieces stick together; thus trapping the leaves underneath. The idea was that you’d make scenes or patterns with he leaves and by trapping the leaves under the paper you could make them stay in whatever arrangement you’d put them. This did not work for us however, as the two pieces would not stick together. It did make wax and flatten the leaves however, and made them more manageable for making pictures. We put them behind plastic and stuck them up on the window for the sun to shine through and they looked beautiful.