The Spiritual Practice of Painting Leaves

by Christine Sine

by Christine Sine

It’s only the beginning of October and the Cascades and Olympics already have a fresh coat of snow, the wind is whipping up and the rain has definitely returned. Outside my office window there is already a beautiful display of red and gold and I am tempted to get out and collect some leaves to decorate our dining room table with.

I love this changing of the seasons and once again I wanted to incorporate it in a special way into my spiritual observances and those of our community. I wanted to relax and have some fun and invite you to join e once again. Reading this article about the consequences of loss of play in our lives made me realize how important it is for all of us to incorporate fun, playful activities into our spiritual lives whenever possible. Writing The Gift of Wonder and engaging in some of the exercises I discuss throughout the book has similarly encouraged me.

A couple of years ago our community members all painted leaves an autumn spiritual practice. It was such fun practice that I plan to do it again this year. It is also a great way to give thanks for the changing seasons and richness that they bring to our lives. So wanted to remind you of the process too and so thought you would appreciate me reposting this.


Autumn leaves
Paint pens 
Mod Podge Water Based Sealer – I like this high gloss one. It makes the leaves look shiny and they last for a good couple of months.

I had fun collecting a bunch of different shapes and different colours, delighted as I did so at how awesome it was to notice something I had not noticed for a long time. The different shapes and sizes, the vibrant, and sometimes fading colours of autumn, the poignant reminder that all things have a season, was life giving. Some of the leaves I immediately sealed with Mod Podge water based  sealer, but most of them I pressed for a couple of days and then laid them out with my paint pens for everyone to admire and then decorate.

I suggested people reflect on the question In the changing seasons what am I hoping for? It was good to both acknowledge the change that is rapidly approaching as we enter the festive season and talk about our hopes and expectations. Just expressing these out loud can help make them a reality.

Leaf painting is not as popular as rock painting, but there are a lot of people out there giving it a go so I printed out some examples from Pinterest, to inspire us. I was amazed at both the creativity that emerged and the inspiration for the future that was expressed.

The nice thing about this is that you don’t need to wait for autumn. Those of you in the southern hemisphere could devise a similar exercise with emerging spring leaves. Or you might like to do a leaf rubbing in your journal while you sit quietly and reflect on your leaf. There are a huge range of possibilities, all of them fun!

One person drew a pattern of concentric circles on her leaves, expressing her desire to become more centred over the coming months. Another copied some of the colourful patterns in the photos I provided, finding relaxation and rest in the calm of the exercise. Another drew a picture of their hopes for their family on one side of a leaf and of their desires for their ministry on the other. I painted along the leaf skeletons, some with lines others with dots, feeling as I did so that my hopes and expectations for the coming season are not fully formed.

At the end we coated our leaves in Mod Podge water based sealer. It brought back the vibrancy of the colours and kept the leaves a little more flexible than the acrylic sealer did. I laid my leaves out on the dining room tableland they lasted well through Thanksgiving, providing me with a reminder of my need to continue thinking about my hopes and expectations for this season.


What is your Response?

What are your hopes and expectations for the coming festive season? Is there a fun, creative and reflective exercise that you could plan over the next few days that would help you to think about these? Is there something you could do to help you focus on your hopes and expectations for the future?

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Anya Almgren October 5, 2019 - 9:43 am

Hi Christine, I usually read Godspace during my devotional time each morning, but didn’t get a chance to read this post until later in the day. And, what a “God thing” it turned out to be! While at recess with my 3 year olds class, the wind picked up and blew leaves off of the trees, whirling and twirling around into our playground. So we whirled and twirled right after them, trying to chase the “leaf storm” as we decided to call it. We each picked our favorite leaf to paint. Back inside our classroom, I brought out red & yellow tempera paint and Qtips to paint with, not knowing if it’d work. But it didn’t matter, because they were so delighted with the experience & talked about it with their families later. I opened up my email inbox after class to see your post and was surprised (and delighted) to read the title: The Spiritual Practice of Painting Leaves. May we all continue to delight and wonder in the changing of the seasons. (By the way, I checked on the leaves yesterday morning and the paint dried perfectly. I’ll have to Mod Podge them, so that they don’t crinkle up too quickly as they continue to dry, as you suggested.)

Christine Sine October 5, 2019 - 3:27 pm

Thank you Anya for spring this. You sound like a kindred spirit.

Rachel October 12, 2019 - 10:15 am

We did the practice as set out in the book. Really enjoyed it. The passage you suggest reflecting on is ecclesiastes 8 – is this correct? I couldnt see how it connected with the activity!

Christine Sine October 12, 2019 - 11:06 am

Thank you for pointing this out. It should be Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 Somehow the first part got. left out.

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