Autumn is almost here, and the maple trees are losing their leaves. This morning, some very pretty ones caught my eye, and inspired me to arrange them on the blacktop and take a picture. Their lovely, vibrant colors mask an unfortunate fact.
The tree which once gave them life, and of which they were the crowning glory, has sucked the life and energy out of them, and has allowed them to wither and fall away. The only use that tree has any more for these beautiful leaves is that they will decompose, and their rot will perhaps in time be absorbed through the roots, to make more leaves, which will in their turn be expended and discarded.
Most of the leaves are still on the trees, and will not fall until they are completely red, yellow or brown. Once they hit the ground, they will quickly become dry and brittle. These leaves, however, are still supple and moist. That tiny bit of green near the central veins is the last bit of life remaining in these leaves. At the peak of their beauty, they are nearly dead.
It sucks to be a leaf.
The leaves that have fallen from the tree before the great rush which will occur in the next few weeks seem almost to have made a decision to abandon the organism which has drained them nearly dry and removed all their vitality and potential. They may not understand that the tree, being what it is, knows that it will have a steady supply of new leaves, and the arboreal version of “jumping ship” means nothing to it. The mutiny of a few brave leaves is inconsequential. Next year, it will get new, enthusiastic leaves, from which it will again drain the life force until there is nothing left. And so on, until after too many years, the tree loses its potential to generate new leaves, and it eventually runs out of its own inner resources and dies.
The tree, it must be admitted, did put some energy and substance into the leaf, in its early stages. From the inner resources of the tree, the bud grew and unfurled into a leaf, and the structure of the tree provided it with water and nutrients so it could expand into its full green glory. For a while, the leaf was all too happy to pay back that energy in gratitude for its very existence, contributing all of its productive life so that the tree could flourish and bring forth other leaves. And for a time, the leaf probably sensed that it was part of the whole, needed and valued for what it brought to the life of the whole tree.
But then, more energy was draining out of the leaf than was going into it. And it came time to either hang on until there was no discernible life remaining in the leaf, or to fall away while there was still some energy, some dignity, held back in the leaf.
My leaves left while they still had something of their life force, something they had created. My leaves departed with dignity.
My leaves refused to be martyrs to the vampire that is the tree. They are still identifiable as “maple”, but they have separated from the tree, and will live out their last few days as maple-but-not tree. They will rot into the ground; they will fertilize the soil and nourish the tree so it can create new leaves which will flourish and die for the sake of the tree, in their turn. That is inevitable, but there is something noble about spending their last energies as maple-but-not-tree.
My leaves speak to me about my relationship with the church.