While taking a walk through the neighborhood, stepping along the sidewalks strewn with fallen, crunchy leaves, I found my mind repeatedly drawn back to a somewhat absurd thought.
I think I wouldn’t mind being a leaf.
In their earliest of days, leaves break forth from their buds touting vibrant colors. They bring with them fresh life and the hope of spring, despite arriving in the slowly receding gray days of winter. They instantly greet life fully, welcoming the warmth of the sun as they reach for the skies above. They dance in the wind and let the rain splash across their surfaces. They embrace their life and where they were placed in this world.
As their days progress, slowly, steadily, they mature. They grow broader, hardier, and their reach extends further. Their ability to shade the world from the harsh sun increases, just in time for summer’s grand appearance. During the hottest season, they’re at the peak of the strength, able to withstand the warmth without withering, and endure the rare summer storms without failing.
As fall approaches, the leaves continue to age and they begin to change. Their colors become altered, thereby changing the world around them. They boast more beauty, as their shades are vivid, drawing in the attention of the world. Every leaf has its own unique design, a design that becomes more evident with every passing day. More intricate, more ornate when looked at alone, yet even more astounding is the beauty of each leaf when contrasting with the others around it.
Viewing these leaves evoked contemplation…
Isn’t that what we are like as people? Bursting forth, becoming our own and then continuing to grow into who we are supposed to be. Colorful. Vibrant. Unique.
As I continued my walk, I arrived at one of my favorite spots in my neighborhood. It’s just a sidewalk, a lone sidewalk next to a busy street, but it always gives me joy, just having the opportunity to walk along it. The source of my happiness is a bit unexpected, as it’s caused by leaves, but of a different nature…
Life is only temporary for the leaves on the trees. After they’ve grown strong, boldly flaunted their strengths and reveled in their glory, they begin to grow brittle. Their previously brilliant colors take on fading hues as they become a shadow of what they once were. Some of them fall suddenly from their perches. Others hang on to the branches that have been their life source, refusing, denying, their imminent outcome. But eventually they will have to accept change is coming. They have to let go.
Even as the leaves fall, even as they wither and fade into more muted hues, they have to know they haven’t finished their stories. They refuse to call the leaving of their perch the end of their tale. There’s still more life to be lived by them, even if it’s but for a brief moment or two more. Their fading colors decorate our streets, our lawns and our sidewalks. The memory of their height in life is honored as we revel and celebrate the time they’ve already given us, treasuring the last few moments we have with them in their decline. They’ve brought us shade, comfort and joy for the year, but now they have a new task; they become a symbol. Each fallen leaf now underfoot is symbolic of change that is about to come, change in seasons, change in life, change that is imminent and sometimes unwelcome.
Yet, as unwelcome as these changes may be, there is joy in the loss of the vibrancy of life. There’s beauty to be found in the memories of the leaves that were, but now aren’t. The moment that I found myself most contemplating the life of a leaf is when I encountered not the leaf, but what it left behind. It was the moment that I came across the leaves that were gone, the leaves that had faded. The leaves that would be forgotten if it wasn’t for one thing…they’d left a lasting impression.
Somehow, just when it seemed the story appeared to have ended, the leaves left their most lasting mark. They left an impression on the world, on the sidewalk, that hasn’t disappeared despite the rain. They left a remaining mark that hasn’t faded in the sun and hasn’t been affected by the feet trampling on it. The leaves left a mark that is seemingly permanent, and undeniably beautiful.
I want to be like those leaves.
I want to make my grand entrances and revel in the sunshine. I want to grow in wisdom. I want to have the ability to help cover others through the tough times in life. I want to be colorful and vibrant and stand strong through the summers and winters in life. But even more so I hope that, when my time comes to wither, to gracefully fade, I hope to leave my mark. Not just a trail of nonsense, but one of indelible, important impact.
I want to leave an impression on the world that is lasting, and impression of love, of kindness, of giving, of hope…
What kind of impression do you aim to leave behind?