Sunlight, Moonlight, Humanlight

As I pace brick paths long past midnight, it shocks me to think that life made do without leaves for over two and a half billion years. The leaves that rustle in the early autumn breeze over my head are ingenious alchemical machines, built to transform light, earth, water, and air into life. Even in the absence of direct sunlight, pale moonlight is enough to power this ancient ritual.
But neither sun nor moon illuminates the leaves I pore over tonight. The light they absorb and transmute comes from a nearby streetlight whose insect-like hum mingles with the calls of cicadas. It’s an odd thing to think that humans can toil away turning natural coal into man-made light, only for that light to loop back around into nature again through the simple sleight-of-branch magic of trees. It’s even odder to think that the same coal that powers the plants that, after a fashion, power this cold man-made light was once itself a prehistoric forest, leaves fluttering in the sun-soaked breeze a million years before man arrived to wonder at them.

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