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Ways to Encourage a Leaf
You are not past your prime. No, that’s not the case at all. Think of this instead as a new chapter just beginning. Each chapter has its time and each is filled with doubts aplenty, as you yourself taught me, and yet you’ve always found a way to be still and contented, even when your whole world was rustling in a morning wind. Even when the height of your branch became dauntingly apparent. Even when the spring clouds parted to reveal an incessant, overbearing, self-obsessive and oppressive summer sun. Even when that amorous white-breasted nuthatch shat on you. Even when your friends grew too quickly, faded, then fell. Even when the cool air wafted through and the sun, growing tired of its own obsequious show, slipped away two minutes earlier each evening. Even when you sensed an inevitable end to your days and finally understood, with a tiny, almost imperceptible sense of devastation, that your place in this cycle was somewhat, shall we say, limited.
Yes, your color has changed. Well ok, sure, that was a few weeks back. And I see what you mean, you do seem somewhat desaturated. But I’m hear to tell you that you’ve never looked better. Truly! I wouldn’t pull your chain or butter your muffin or kiss your … well, you know as well as anybody that such euphemisms don’t quite suit the sensibilities of a leaf. Ha! Ok, I’ll admit that I was worried to see you down here once I heard what had happened, but then I spotted you against the hedge and nearly cried. I mean, wow. You should really see yourself. Up there you were one among many, a wonderful leaf, but always difficult to distinguish. You see? Whereas down here, I mean, you look stunning. One of a kind. Unrepeatable. Like a rare pearl upended from its shell and drifting dreamily across the ocean floor. Or a lone lock of purple heather bursting up and out from the face of a wet rock wall. Or a single streak of afternoon light filtering through the bedroom window on the day that Grandpa passed away. Do you remember that day? Oh god, what am I saying? Of course not. That’s my story and you’ve been here the whole time. I digress.
Here’s my point though, now, you see? I’ve come to believe that our best work is both behind us and ahead. I’ve come to believe that we disappear and continue — that life persists, paradoxically, both within us and beyond us. So that even when you leave this hedge, drift underfoot, fall apart to nothing, cease to even be a leaf and slowly sink into the soil –– even then, you will continue.
And I’ll see you up against the sky come spring time.