What We Leaf
An Essay by Stephen Geez
Comes a time all leaves ride the wind.
That’s when many young’ns first take notice. They grow fascinated by the simple, exquisite beauty in a single leaf. Many are driven to collect the prettiest ones, press a few between the pages of a book, even save them ’tween sheets of wax paper. Fascinated, they are, by the myriad shapes and sizes and colors, some appearing nearly perfect, all with tiny flaws that give them character, make them memorable.
In any vast tract of forest, you can find as many leaves as there are people in the world, all reaching for the light. You don’t really see each one, though, as their differences blend into a canopy that shimmers and blurs in its vastness.
A scatter of leaves can remind us that, as with so many aspects of our world, it’s worth a pause to look closer, to appreciate the splendor that passes through our lives.
To appreciate the people who pass through our lives.
You can’t possibly see everybody in the crowd, but sometimes, when you’re lucky, one or two will come close, and you’ll notice. You’ll see that simple, exquisite beauty in a lone soul. Then you might just spy another, even a few. We come in all shapes and sizes and colors, some nearly perfect, all with tiny flaws that give us character, make us memorable.
Whether you move through dense forest or the most crowded public square, you’ll see countless individuals, each doing his job, working together to sustain the tree of life. You’ll notice how we’re tethered to our world, hanging on tight when the gales of adversity blow around and through us, tugging at what anchors us to purpose. And you’ll discover that most of us do somehow manage to fulfill our destinies; but then toward the end, we begin to change, show our age, find our true colors, blaze brilliantly in those final moments before we must inevitably let go.
My fourth-grade class went on a leaf-collecting jaunt. Most of the children sought perfect specimens, one of each species to tick off a checklist. “Look! I’ve got a maple!” No need to look for any more . . .
Me, I searched for the odd ones, that maple with an ookie pattern of warty bumps, a sycamore boasting the crookedest lines, an oak teasing me with connect-the-dot pinpoint holes—leaves with attitude, as if they’d seen it all, had stories to tell. Most kids wanted the “pretty ones,” but can we honestly dare to declare even the least one ugly?
All of us have tiny flaws that make us memorable.
So for now, you just keep on reaching for your own piece of the sun. Be proud of fulfilling your destiny. Remember to hang on tight when gales of adversity tug at your soul.
And don’t be embarrassed when your age shows in the lines and bumps and colors that anyone who bothers to look can plainly see. Then cherish the opportunity to embrace your very own brilliant blaze of glory when it’s your turn to let go.
Give the young’ns a reason to notice your simple, exquisite beauty—warts and all. Don’t need wax paper, the pages of a book.
Comes a time all people ride the wind.
So live the wonder of a leaf.