Every year we look forward to seeing the leaves change color, and fall gracefully to the ground. The hues of red, orange, and yellow are synonymous with fall for this very reason. So why is it that so many humans insist on ridding their lawns of these beautiful and valuable leaves? Many don’t realize that beyond aesthetics, fallen leaves harbor life. This article by the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation shows the 
importance of leaf litter during our colder months.
As lawns and impacted areas take up more and more of our overall landscape, many species depend more and more on our yard areas for survival. It is important to consider leaving a layer of overwinter shelter for pollinator insects and other invertebrates. Not only do fallen leaves provide shelter, but they also act as a form of mulch, retaining moisture, preventing stormwater runoff, and helping to keep “weeds” at bay. If we each set aside a portion of our yard where we “leave the leaves” and let nature do its job, we can help stop the precipitous loss of our migratory song birds and other species. Insects are critical for the fertilization of plants and trees, and they serve as the mainstay food of most species of birds. Our biodiversity depends on the healthy natural cycle of leaves. 


Marti Keller has been a part of the Eco-A community since the very first nature walk around the lake at Stone Mountain. She and her husband Richard Cohen were attracted to the idea–and still are enthusiastically committed to– opportunities to spend time in our precious Southern Piedmont wilderness areas, especially in the urban Atlanta environment. She is a Unitarian Universalist minister in the Thoreau transcendentalist tradition. She was selected as a poet/artist in residence for the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. Her most recent poetry collection is “Thinking in Haiku”. The following are several haikus Marti created including one inspired by the Eco-A Henderson Park walk.


Haiku on the trail

Beech trees coming in

Pipe vines, native magnolias

A very rich woods


Georgia Native Plant

We scramble down banks

Yell out: trillium ahead

small acts of rescue.


Speed Hikers

Thirteen grim hikers

in no way forest bathing

Do not see the trees.


Urban Woods in Early Winter

The trees are dimming

as they should in December

a dogwood still gleams.


Split Birch

Inside burnt-out tree trunk

High up in its black bowels

a mushroom flowers.



Twenty-five years here

Once fooled by acres of green

Kudzu invasions.


Savant Slope

Some natives burst through

the English ivy hillside

Ancient defiance.

I came to know the nat­ural world ini­tially through the encour­age­ment of my par­ents, who both claim nature-friendly fam­ily tra­di­tions. When my par­ents, brother, and I moved to the coun­try­side out­side Char­lottesville, Vir­ginia in the late 1960s, we had no imme­di­ate neigh­bors and walked to our friends’ houses through the woods. We rock-hopped creeks, kept half-an-eye out for snakes, car­ried sticks to (respect­fully) relo­cate spi­der webs that seemed always to span the trail at face level, and learned many of the native plants and trees. My mother, in par­tic­u­lar, ensured that our vaca­tions included nat­ural areas, and we made many vis­its to the moun­tains of west­ern North Car­olina, home to most of her fam­ily. By the time I was in high school, our fam­ily moved to a forested moun­tain­side fac­ing the Blue Ridge Moun­tains where my par­ents still live today, and where I often visit and make photographs.

I sus­pect grow­ing up in the Great East­ern For­est (or more accu­rately, in its frag­mented remains) has helped to shape my vision by forc­ing me to focus more inti­mately to express the essence of the bio­log­i­cally more com­plex but geo­log­i­cally less dra­matic land­scape of the South­east­ern US. Unlike in a grand west­ern vista, the view of a water­fall on a moun­tain­side in the East is likely obscured by hun­dreds of species of trees, shrubs, vines, and other plants that sur­round both the falls and the pho­tog­ra­pher. It seems a nat­ural pro­gres­sion to focus closer in on just the trees them­selves, or even on par­tic­u­lar branches and leaves — there are so many dif­fer­ent, inter­est­ing shapes! Another incen­tive for close-in fram­ing comes from avoid­ing urban power lines (and the prun­ing mal­for­ma­tions near them), which limit the field of view to the extent that one is fairly forced into the abstract in order to visu­ally make sense of the few remain­ing purely organic areas.

All life forms are cre­ated as the math of the uni­verse endures our planet’s tri­als of hot, cold, sun, shade, water, drought, and time to achieve the func­tion of sur­viv­ing. Every species of tree or plant has a dis­tinctly dif­fer­ent look, leaf shape, or angle at which twigs or leaves emerge from branches, and all is chore­o­graphed for endur­ing and pros­per­ing. And each life’s form is shaped in part by the shapes of all the oth­ers. The shape and color of flow­ers are influ­enced by the shapes of the insects that pol­li­nate them, and vice versa. Did plants become trees by out­rac­ing dinosaur appetites or each other’s need for light? Even the unique suc­cess of human­ity, an anthro­pol­o­gist might say, comes from our hands with those con­ve­nient oppos­able thumbs that spurred on our minds which grew big invent­ing new things to do with our hands — and it is the trees that gave us our hands. When your hand falls by your side, even at rest your fin­gers will instinc­tively defy grav­ity to grasp an ancient limb.

I am always aim­ing for the point at which design and mean­ing inter­sect seam­lessly. Find­ing the visual rhythms in nat­ural forms is a way of gain­ing a glimpse of the greater design we can barely per­ceive — that we don’t have words for — that con­nects us all. I feel that my strength as a pho­tog­ra­pher is not so much in cre­at­ing some­thing new, but in notic­ing how things are.

– Kathryn Kolb