As I walked across a neighbor’s yard I came upon the leaf of an ironwood tree. I picked it up and took it home, and I have it here now, sitting on the desk in front of me.

Ironwood is a small, tough tree with close, hard wood. It grows slowly, almost carefully, you might say – not because it’s unsure of itself, but because it must be done right.

My leaf is just as tough, and shows the same painstaking craftsmanship as the tree it came from. Even though its color has faded almost to gray, it shines with the lustre of polished leather, lined and textured like the skin of my hand. Each deep rib leads to a jagged double tooth at the edge, sharp, but softened by undulating curves that run the full length of the leaf. Turned over, its ribs stand out like bones, white against a faded green. A stiff keel joins them together, curling up into the bold prow of its stem.

I think I’ll keep it awhile.