I have a small confession. I am a bit of an eccentric. I have received many bookmarks over the years as gifts. Graduation gifts, birthdays gifts, souvenir gifts from far off journeys. Lot's of bookmarks. I love to read and am quite a voracious reader and I have used them all over the years, but, I did have one I used more often then the others. One of my favorite quotes is Hemingway's, " There is no friend as loyal as a book". I would extend that to also include a bookmark. My favorite bookmark was a leaf I picked up years ago on a hike in the Angeles National Forest. It has become increasingly fragile with all the years and books that it has witnessed. I remember picking it up and having a fellow hiker remark that there were actually some really pretty leaves just back there. That is precisely why I chose this leaf. I quietly have used this leaf that was deemed "un-pretty" to devour and re-devour some of the greatest books known to man. this diminutive, brown and broken leaf has visited many pages over the years from authors like Shakespeare, Kipling, Bradbury, Tolkein, Doyle, Tzu, Twain, and legions of others both fiction and non. About six or so years ago I had a silent fit as I realized I had inadvertently sent my leaf to the shelf of my public library when I failed to remove it from a book letters from the artist Charles Russel I had just returned. I kept meaning to go check the book and recover my leaf but it was not to be and sadly I just forgot over time. A couple of months ago I thought I would read that book again (Good Medicine: The Illustrated Letters of Charles M. Russell) to help draw some inspiration for an instrument I was building for a traditional cowboy singer. Much to my surprise, There was my leaf! It was a little more crumbled but still intact. I am not certain if it was marking the same position I had it, but there it was in all it's glory. A leaf that had traveled from Los Angeles to Texas and found it's home among the letters of a great Western artist was finally home. Or was it? I read the book again and returned it to the library a couple of days late. I felt a little melancholy about keeping the leaf. After all, it had moved on and so had I. I don't have any way of knowing how many other people have read that book since I returned it with my leaf bound within the pages. The fact that the leaf was there was a real surprise. I still think of that hike where I picked up that leaf. I could have picked up any leaf that day but for some reason I found "my leaf". It was not a leaf of vibrant fall color or an unusual shape - Just a mottled brown leaf that looks like so many others. That leaf was my guide for many a journey within the pages of so many different books. It served a great purpose and my hope is that it will continue on and outlive me as it already has my fellow hiker of that day. I read most of my books on a kindle now. I really like the bookmark feature that always takes me back to where I was last reading. That feature, however, is no crumbly leaf rescued from a hiking trail 1500 miles and 13 years ago. I remember using that leaf as a bookmark when I read Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching for the second time. I placed it carefully next to the page that wisely instructed, "When people see some things as beautiful, other things become ugly." I sometimes think about that leaf when I bookmark a page on my kindle. Happy Trails leaf!