Do You Know Your Leaves?

Autumn is such a beautiful time of the year, with the brilliant colors of changing leaves and special quality of light. In fact, if you’ve ever thought to yourself that autumn sunlight seems different, softer and more diffused, it’s not just your imagination. We really do perceive sunlight differently during this time of the year due to the angle of the Earth relative to the sun. As the northern hemisphere tilts farther away from the sun now, sunlight is more “spread out” for us so to speak.

This diffused light often takes on a golden hue with softer, more drawn out shadows that is so treasured by many photographers. Add to this the ephemeral burst of leaf colors and it’s easy to see why so many of us are mesmerized by this annual show of mother nature’s imagination!

Uguna Falls, Gorbea Natural Park

By the way, make sure to read to the end
for answers to the bonus questions in
The Beauty of Algorta’s Old Fishing Port.

Trees hold a special place for the Basque people. Here in the Basque Country 55% of the territory is covered by trees so there is no shortage of places to appreciate autumn colors. One tree above all others has a very symbolic meaning for the Basque people, the famous oak tree Gernikako Arbola, the Tree of Gernika. It symbolizes the traditional freedoms or Fueros granted to the people that were passed down from medieval times.

Speaking of freedom, having just witnessed the presidential elections in the US it’s worth noting that in 1787 John Adams referenced the freedoms the Basque people enjoyed in A Defense of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America. Today a statue of John Adams stands in front of the Biscay provincial government building in Bilbao.

Anyway back to Gernika. The tree that stands now is the fifth descendent of the original tree which was planted in the 14th century and stood for 450 years. The first replacement lived from 1742-1892 and the second survived the aerial bombings of 1937 famously immortalized in Picasso’s Guernica. There are now descendants of the Guernica Tree on five continents of the world; in the United States, France, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Australia, Kenya, and Japan.

Speaking of places near and far, unfortunately Talkwalk Team’s travel activities have been postponed due to the ongoing pandemic and restrictions limiting us to our town of residence here in the Basque Country. There are however still places around town where we can appreciate this season’s beauty and learn a bit about mother nature, and increasing nature literacy is definitely one of the goals of the Talkwalk Team.

One of the nice things about the parks here in town are the efforts to encourage nature literacy by placing signs next to plants and trees. Here are some examples, including a walnut, American oak, and mulberry tree. The names are given in Basque, Spanish, and Latin. Does your town have similar initiatives?

Some of you may have seen the following picture before. It’s been on the internet for a number of years but hasn’t lost its relevance. If anything with more of us confined to towns and cities and our increasing disconnectedness it resonates even more strongly. It’s some food for thought anyway. Take a look and test yourself.

We’ll assume you did okay with the brands. How about the leaves? Your answers may depend on where you are in the world since this isn’t a very detailed drawing. If you said from top left to bottom right…

1. Maple 
2. Walnut or ash
3. Fir, pine, or spruce 
4. Oak
5. Beech, alder, or elm 
6. Birch or cherry

Then you did great!

Here are the tree names in Spanish

1. Arce
2. Nogal, Fresno (now you know where the name of Fresno, California comes from!)
3. Abeto, Pino, Pícea
4. Roble
5. Haya, Aliso, Olmo (like the actor Edward James Olmos!)
6. Abedul, Cerezo

Now in Basque, you’ll notice that most are completely different!

1. Astigar
2. Intxaurrondo, Lizar
3. Izei, Pinu, Picea
4. Haritz
5. Pago, Haltz Beltza, Zumar
6. Urki, Gereziondo

Here is another one to test yourself with a bit more detail. Good luck! Click on the link under the drawing for answers.

Here are some leaves I’ve collected around town in Getxo. Do you recognize any of them?

Writing about autumn leaves wouldn’t be complete without mentioning a song by the same name; the infamous Autumn Leaves. Rather than listening to one of the standard versions of this song however I’ve chosen one of my favorite singers, who sadly left us far too early, taken away by cancer at the young age of 33 in November, 1996. Her name is Eva Cassidy and rarely have I heard a more ethereal yet soulful voice. At the time she sang this she would only have a few months to live which makes this all the more poignant.

Enjoy this and if it’s your first introduction to Eva please look for her other extraordinary renditions, especially Over the Rainbow. Although she is gone she lives on within each of us who continues to listen.

Finally, here are the answers to the bonus questions from The Beauty of Algorta’s Old Fishing Port.

Is there a difference between any time and anytime

Anytime is used as an adverb that means whenever or at any time

For example: “you can call me anytime” 
meaning you can call at whatever hour you prefer.

Any time describes an amount of time

For example: “Do you have any time for a phone call today?”
here we want to know how much time you have, five minutes, half an hour?

If you have any doubt about which to use, it’s safer to use any time separately.

Is it gray or grey for the spelling of this color? Hint, look at the last word of the question 😉

This is a trick question! Just like the spelling of color / colour there is an American and British spelling. Many Americans prefer gray, though not all, and most British and Commonwealth countries prefer grey.

Test your English level. What do these words from above mean?

Diffused, perceive, so to speak, hue, ephemeral, mesmerized, shortage, disconnectedness, infamous, ethereal, poignant

Thanks for reading to the end! Feel free to leave a comment below if you enjoyed this. Be well and keep safe.

Published by is based in Getxo, the Basque Country and is dedicated to offering experiences that encourage people to improve their English or Spanish fluency naturally through conversation, activities and walking.

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