Life of a Leaf
As I drove home from work last week, I noticed a few leaves on a Maple tree hanging on for dear life. The wind won the battle against one leaf as it detached from the branch and began its descent towards the earth. I followed the leaf as the wind blew from one yard to the next when it made a beeline across the street and vanished from my sight. I pulled into my driveway noticing several Maple leaves against my garage door, even though I left work early the day before to utilize the mulching and bagging capabilities of the good old Cub Cadet. My thought shifted back to the lone leaf I was following. I will never know what happened to that leaf as it was only for a fleeting moment where our paths crossed.
I went into the house and peered at a yard that not less than 24 hours prior was pretty much free and clear of any kind leaves. I knew leaves like the one I followed for a few blocks would eventually find their way to our yard. I also knew that Tennis Sanitation was done picking up yard “waste” and that time, weather, and other factors would determine the fate of any other foliage that would grace our yard with their presence. I put the word waste in parenthesis as it is very important to the end of this column.
I have been doing a lot of thinking about leaves, the change of seasons that is clearly upon us (some days clearer than others) and how human beings are a lot like leaves. Leaves start off as a small bud and as time passes, has the potential to grow into a vital provider for many. By taking in water, sunlight, and air, a leaf helps provide nourishment to the tree which in turn, produces chlorophyll, giving the leaves their green color. Not all leaves make it to this point as often they are plucked from the tree by the hands of circumstances that often have no explanation while others fall victim to storms that they were not healthy enough to withstand. Even for the ones who live a long and healthy life (for a leaf), their time will soon come where their ability to provide for the tree will come to an end. Many will keep hanging on for as long as possible and depending on factors such as the soil they were planted in, additional watering, fertilization, and grooming, might hang on longer than even they want to. Eventually, they will detach and reach their final destination.
Will they be turned into mulch, which helps fertilize the yard they land, providing benefits to future generations? Will they be bagged up as waste, turned into compost, again providing future benefits well beyond their lifespan? Some may end up under the cold winter snow for a few months which again, provides fertilization for the grass and other plants while others will end up back in the trees to provide shelter for tree rats… I mean, squirrels. No matter where they end up, they serve a purpose, even the ones that are gathered up and used to represent the feathers of a turkey on a young child’s art project. Maple, Oak, Locust or even the dreaded Ash; they are each as important as the other and all serve a purpose.
Like the tree needs the leaves and vice versa, a community needs people and people need the community. We have all had people who were plucked from our lives and those who were not healthy enough to withstand the storms of life. They were human nonetheless and just as important as the ones who held on until the bitter end. Every leaf has a purpose (Ecclesiastes 3:1). If the bible verse does not make its point with you, listen to The Byrds song “Turn, Turn, Turn.” When you are out walking, ice fishing, removing snow from the driveway, or whatever gets you outdoors this winter and see a leaf, remember that we all serve a purpose. Maybe your purpose is being that extra water, fertilization, or grooming to help grow the community tree? Humans and leaves are not waste. Now “Get Out and Enjoy the Great Outdoors.”