Where do leafages come from?  Where does anything come from?

When it happened, I had no idea of its signifcance. In my travels I have always picked up a leaf here or there and pressed it between the pages of my notebook. It was 1998, I was in Burma and had spent the day at the Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon, dazed by the hundreds of glittering gold stupas and huge colorful buddhas.   I picked up a leaf that I thought was from a peepul tree and pressed it in the pages of my notebook.  The next day I saw that the leaf had absorbed my writing.  I did not know then that two years later I would be making leafages.  I did not know that the peepul leaf was in fact a bodhi leaf and that bodhi leaves would inspire much of my work.

Page from Burma diary

It was one of the last days of summer 2000 in Abiquiu, New Mexico.   On this particular day I walked around a grove of cottonwood trees and plucked one of its thick, dark green serrated leaves.  Then I saw a cluster of startlingly yellow ones on a branch beyond my reach.  I wanted one but I couldn’t have it.  And still I wanted it.

I sat down with my small notebook on a picnic bench under the tree.  The air was still, the sun was hot. Suddenly, a yellow leaf floated onto the table and settled onto my notebook.  I looked up but no more leaves were forthcoming.

I recorded this by writing on the leaf with a Sakura 0.1 mm pen and stuck it in my diary.

This was my first intentional leafage and I’ve been in thrall to leaves ever since.  I see now that leafages are the confluence of many threads of my life–nature, storytelling, calligraphy, writing, languages, alphabets, gypsies, crones, paper, design and color.

Leaf from Abiquiu diary

I don’t know whether this leaf or the Burma bodhi is the actual ur-leafage, the one from which all the others have come. Not that it matters much!