This has nothing to do with photography, but since I was out making photographs of autumn leaves and salmon bones today, I thought about it.
I don't know the original author of this story, but it remains one of my favourites. So to whomever wrote it originally, my thanks! I've probably modified it a bit over the years in my own telling of it, but anyway.
Once upon a time there was a group of schoolboys who were wondering why the leaves all change colour and fall off the trees in the fall. One of the boys had an old Indian grandfather, so they decided to go and ask him. "Grandfather, why do the leaves all change colour and fall off the trees in the autumn?" The old man say quietly for a moment, then replied, "Well, many long time ago when the earth was first created, this did not happen. And in the fall, before the cold and snow of winter came, the frogs and turtles would burrow down into the mud, the mammals would all grow a thick coat of fur and some of them would go into a long sleep, the birds would fly away south or fluff up their feathers... and everyone was cared for except for the insects, the little people who live on the forest floor. Now these insect people have a lot of important jobs to do - they help clean up dead plants and animals, they pollinate flowers, they provide food for others - many good things. And every winter they would all be killed. One day the animals had a council and decided that this wasn't right, so they went to talk to the Creator about it.
The Creator saw that they had reason in their argument, so it was decided on that day that in the autumn, before the cold of winter came, the leaves would all turn the colours of fire - oranges and yellows and reds, and the wind would go around and gather up all of the leaves in its basket and then lay them on the ground to protect the little people - the insects who live on the forest floor."
Well, the boys thought this was a great story, so the next day they rushed as one to tell their science teacher what they had learned. And the science teacher, being a man of science listened patiently as they unrolled their story, then said, "Well, that's a very nice story boys, but that's not what REALLY happens. And he told them about photosynthesis and the various carotenoids and other isomeric hydrocarbons that make up the leafs' structure, and he explained about the shutdown of chlorophyll production and how the chemical bond between the leaf and the branch is severed..." And when he was done the boys went away, enlightened but a little disenchanted.
Well, the science teacher, being a man of science, decided to take it upon himself to go and straighten out this old grandfather while he was at it. So he made an appointment with the elder and went out to see him. "I understand you've been telling the children stories..." he began, and proceeded to go through the same long explanation he had given to the boys. The old man listened very intently, and by the time the teacher was done the old man's eyes were as big as dinner plates. He looked astonished. The teacher was a little taken aback by this reaction and asked, "So, you're not angry that I came out here to tell you this?" "No, No..." the old man replied. "You know, I never knew the Creator would go to so much trouble, just to protect the little people who live on the forest floor..."
Author Unknown (but appreciated)