Laminated leaves, anyone? From the author's collection. LAURA LANE

The here and now is when to enjoy fall foliage

BY LAURA LANE
Special to the VOICE

I love fall. I love the colours. I love how the leaves fall from the trees, slowly gliding, twisting and turning and tumbling down to the ground or speeding past me with a gust of wind. I love the accumulation of leaves on the sidewalk or in the gutters so that as I shuffle my feet through them, they almost slow me down. They at least remind me how I let them slow me down on my trudge to and from school each day, or how I eagerly looked for piles that were raked into mountains for me to dive into, swim through, and when I come up for air and head home, having telltale red, yellow and orange reminders peeking out of my socks, stuck in my hair, and the odd time down my shirt.

I loved collecting as many types of leaves as I could in every colour and size. Big red maple leaves, yellow oak, orangey brown birch and tiny little willow leaves. I wanted them all and I wanted to keep them for ever. Some years they were kept in shoe boxes. Other years pressed between pages of the biggest books I could find in the house. But try as I might they inevitably turned brown, dried out and crumbled into brittle pieces of dust.

That’s why when my dad hit on one more of his great sales ideas I fell hook, line, and sinker for it. My dad has a plastic manufacturing company and he hates to throw out plastic— or at least let anything go to waste. He’s always looking for ways to use the small cut-off pieces that are left over.

So about ten years ago he looked at the clear acrylic plastic cut-offs and he hit on an idea. We would cut them into 3-inch by 3-inch squares then collect the best, brightest and most unique fall leaves, press them to the underside of the squares and adhere them with the end pieces of the plastic tape that the company makes as well. Stick on trivet feet in the four corner and voila —drink coasters. We’d package them as sets of four, plus a larger hot pad trivet to match.

I came up with the idea to wrap them in clear cellophane wrapping paper, tied with red, orange and yellow ribbon, with a little label attached. We’d offer it to local charities as a fundraising item with 25% of the proceeds going to the charity!

Brilliant idea! I jumped right on that bandwagon. My kids and I headed out the door immediately to collect the best, brightest and most colourful leaves we could find. My dining room table became the assembly line of coaster production. We were in business!

Okay, actually we were in production. In order to be a real business, we needed sales. We found a few unsuspecting friends and family members who were willing to fork over $20, but knocking on doors proved harder than I expected. No local businesses were willing to stock them, and as our inventory begin to collect dust through the winter and into the next spring, my carefully chosen bright fall leaves did as they inevitably did in my shoebox, they turned a sad sorry brown no matter what colour they started out. Nature won out again.

I have a few coasters left at home and every time I find one tucked away in the drawer under the window seat or under a stack of magazines I am reminded that some things—things like fall leaves— are meant to be enjoyed in the moment, and not laminated or tucked away in a shoebox.

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