Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Last Leaf

This is a common site for me at this time of year. In New York city the peak of the leaf viewing season has come and gone and for a man who makes a living in lawn maintenance a scene like this represents only the harsh reality of more hard work ahead. I had been at this yard just yesterday, fully armed with noisy blowers, rakes and bags.

In front of us here, is the exquisite Japanese Maple from which these leaves have just fallen. I can say categorically just fallen, because when I left yesterday the lawn was green and a deep and fragrant harvest of leaves had been fully dispatched.

It looks now as though I had never come at all. Yet I am familiar with nature's whims and ways by now to know, that even if I were to mount an attack once more with rakes and tools, this pretty yard, in just a few hours more would be cloaked just as this again. The cool winds would blow and even in the still of a dark night they would continue to fall and fall.

I have come back today because of a friend who passed by me yesterday whilst I was raising billowing clouds of leaves using one of mankind's nosiest and most obnoxious of machines. He asked me to put my tools down and come out with him on the street and look up to the street sign still hiding behind a bright canopy of leaves. He said, "man this is just so beautiful." I had to agree of course and felt a nudge of the poet within step up and once again grow conscious and at last recognize the beauty spilling in every direction all around us.

The sign says Normal but of course this scene only lasts for a few fragile days.

Today I resist the gardener who wants to come back with a rake and push these leaves into oblivion. But today my tool is a camera and instead I just wait and look and breathe the fresh rich air. There is a child within me who pops out from time to time and gives the leaves a playful kick. I even tossed some in the air and watched them twirl about in the light breeze.

The whims of nature of course are unaccountable. On a thick rich bed of red, how did one lone yellow one find its way here.

They lay so still and peaceful on the ground. One can be easily tempted to look upon this as death but of course we would be wrong. The tree is still very much alive and yearns for the winter to come so that it can rest and rebuild strength for the year yet to come. For now the leaves on the ground too have not been touched by frost and cold. There are no winter scars to blight their beauty. The gardener has to rake them up of course but the child can be enriched and made joyous by these precious moments of beauty.

There is a tree next door which has already made its transition into winter's slumber. It appears so stark and dull in comparison. But of course this is just because my eye has been swayed and caressed by the tree next door.

And from next door, when it is framed by the brilliant red and the glint of the sun it too gains some of the same sweet charm. Its beauty not so blatant perhaps but still there to be seen if one looks beyond the surface.

I have been with the tree some time when the critic begins to emerge. I give a silent complaint to myself that I should have come earlier to take pictures. That a day or two earlier the tree would have been even more perfect and beautiful. But of course I think how silly. What a useless observation. There is more beauty and delight here than I can ever fully realize. I should be just happy to appreciate what I have in this moment now. Forget yesterday and certainly not worry about tomorrow.

When the charm of fall has long past there will still be beauty here. Deep within the dark stark branches there will be slowly building a fiery show for the springtime yet to come. And if our imagination is dim and our senses grow weary, we have only to look up to the sky itself with its constant show of whimsical clouds racing across the sky.

There is an appearance of frailness to all this beauty. It is a perception not really built on fact. It would take some force to pull these leaves from the stem right now. They have after all withstood the onslaught of a long season. There have been winds and heavy rain and they have been oblivious as they wagged and waved about for days and weeks and many months.

Yet no matter our wishes or expectations soon enough there will be some microscopic twitch and nature's call will be felt. A infinitesimal shudder perhaps and then a fall to earth that will be measured in fleeting seconds. A journey that can be taken just once.

I really don't know how long I spent here. Climbing up and crouching low and listening and pondering and just giving myself a chance to take in as much beauty as I could. I asked my eyes to look and yet my heart received so much more.

"He is now ready to achieve

The life of perfection-delight

Because his human life has become

A dead leaf on the desire-tree."

Excerpt from Ten Thousand Flower-Flames, Part 85 by Sri Chinmoy.