Pressing leaves with stories

Do you ever pick up a leaf, and press it into a book? At the moment you might think, “of course, I’ll remember where this leaf is from”. Years later, a leaf falls out of the book. You might recall when you collected this leaf artifact. Or it might become a curiosity. A relic of some moment now lost.

This photo was taken on January 15, 2010. Posted to Flickr with the title, “I like finding pressed leafs in my books in the middle of January

How can you remember where you collected a particular leaf?

Perhaps the book might help you to remember when you collected the leaf. If it was a book you were reading at the time, that would clue you into the era of your life. Or maybe you could do something more literal…

Tips for capturing the moment when saving a leaf

1. Use an envelope

Before you place the leaf inside the book, put the leaf inside an envelope. The envelope with the leaf goes inside the book to be pressed/preserved. The envelope keeps the leaf together in case it crumbles over time.

2. Write the date on the envelope

Before you slide the leaf inside the envelope, write the date on the outside of the envelope.

(Also, write the date on the envelope BEFORE you put the leaf inside. You don’t want your pencil tip to make marks onto your leaf—although that might be kinda cool too).

Your handwriting on the envelope gives a little bit of personality as well.

3. Write a caption on the envelope

I also like to write a little caption of how the leaf was discovered. The caption goes under the date.

Now this has become a fun little autumn project. With the help of my daughters, we select a leaf on a walk. At home I write the date and caption on an envelope. The leaf goes into the envelope and pressed inside a book.

4. Use the same book when pressing leaves

Right now I have one specific book that is designated my “leaf book.” That way, I don’t end up with random leaves throughout my bookshelf. Although that would make for a fun random surprise too.

5. Best envelopes to use for leaf pressing

So far I’ve found the best envelopes to be 5×7. Although the letter-sized envelopes are more common around the house, these standard envelopes might not be tall enough to hold a leaf. And they might be too long, when you try to press the leaf in a book, the envelope might stick out.

The 5×7 is a tad TOO big for holding a leaf, but the envelope still fits within a normal book nicely.

Many years ago I was doing this with tiny glassine envelopes. I seem to recall them being archival. The tiny size was fun. Make the whole package have even more of a nostalgic feel. But let’s get real. How many of us have cute little glassine envelopes around the house? I have a plethora of these 5×7 envelopes from Christmas card mailings.

6. Photograph the leaf where you discovered it

Another branch of this project would be to photograph where you found the leaf. Think about how your photo at that location can help to tell the story. Include people you were with. Or if you are by yourself, include more of the setting where the leaf was found.

7. Photograph the leaf with your hand-written envelope

It may seem silly to photograph the leaves with the envelope. Years from now you’ll have both of these items together—the leaf and the envelope. Why take a pic?

With the photo, you have a full story all captured together in a digital form. When you rediscover your leaf, you can go back to your photos from that day, and see the original colors in the leaf, along with the contextual photos of where the leaf was found.

All these ideas together help preserve the memories a bit more.

With the envelope and the photos, you’ll have a more rich history of your memories. Perhaps even more importantly, longer term, these leaves will share memories with people who weren’t there.

It’s great to be flipping through books from your parents or a friend and discover a leaf. You wonder the stories of that leaf. Why it was picked up. Where it was picked up. The poetry behind the mystery is wonderful.

Is this too literal?

There’s also poetry to having a bit more of the story behind the leaf with the caption written on the envelope. However, part of me wonders if this is too literal. Too much giving away the story and not letting mystery grow.

I suppose time would only tell when years from now I discover these envelopes with leaves.

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