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Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Leaves, Part I

We wouldn't be here without leaves.

Photosynthesis is the process by which the sun's light energy is captured, and stored as a different kind of energy, chemical energy. Without that process, the food we depend on wouldn't be available. Some people think that photosynthesis is important because it generates Oxygen. It does, but there's plenty of Oxygen--the atmosphere is about 20% Oxygen. There would still be many centuries worth of Oxygen, long after we ran out of food, if photosynthesis were suddenly turned off.

We do eat leaves. Consider lettuce and spinach, for example. We are also eating leaves when we eat cabbage. Most of our food isn't leaves, however. It's other plant parts, where some of the energy from photosynthesis is stored, or it's animals, who have themselves eaten leaves. Cows, for instance, do eat leaves. Lots of leaves. They also eat stems.

Before going too far with leaves, I'd better acknowledge a couple of things. There are other processes that store energy. Photosynthesis isn't the only one. But it's the most important. Also, there are other plant parts that carry out photosynthesis. Many plant stems do, and so do other parts. But leaves are important. So is photosynthesis, the main reason they are.

Not only are leaves important, they are beautiful. They are certainly numerous. Our language, and, no doubt, other languages, reflect the fact that leaves are common by using the word, leaf, or the word, leaves, and various derivatives, for other things than plant parts. Probably the most common non-plant use is the word, leave, in the sense of depart or abandon. The Online Etymology Dictionary doesn't indicate any connection between the words for plant part and departure. I almost wish there was a connection.

I intend to say a little about what the Bible has to say about leaves, and, probably, mention some literary references, in further posts.

Let's start with the first mention of leaves I found in the Bible. You probably knew what it was already. Here it is:
And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they [were] naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. Genesis 3:7 (KJV)

Leaves, therefore, are part of what seems to be the first record of the use of technology by humans. Covering themselves with leaves wasn't God's plan, but that of Adam and Eve. God soon covered them with animal skin. From the very beginning, fallen humanity has had problems with the use of technology. It can be used for God's glory, but it certainly isn't always.

Here's the last mention of leaves: In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, [was there] the tree of life, which bare twelve [manner of] fruits, [and] yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree [were] for the healing of the nations. Revelation 22:2.

We aren't, if you please, ever going to leave leaves. Nor, probably, photosynthesis. We need to be careful in interpreting Revelation, but it reads as if leaves are going to go right on capturing light energy throughout eternity. (From what source?)

Thanks for reading. I must leave now.

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