I sat by the creek and looked up. Brown and yellow leaves fell from the high branches like scattered raindrops – one here, another there, two at once, all around me. I watched, mesmerized, as one leaf spiraled its way downward, spinning like slow-motion helicopter wings. Another dropped, stem-end first, fast and straight as if it was as heavy as a rock. A third leaf swept left, then right, left, right, a lowering pendulum of motion through the warm autumn air.
A breeze blew overhead, and another flurry of leaves left their canopied lofts to dance downward to the forest floor, or onto a lower branch or whatever happened to catch them along the way. Their choreography rivaled the best ballet as each leaf found its rhythm and moved in perfect performance with all the other leaves.
This autumn dance of leaves happens every year, the result of plant hormones and enzymes preparing the leaf to let go. Depending on its size, weight, shape, moisture content, magnitude of deterioration, each leaf slices away from its abscission layer in its own sweet time and way.
Each falling leaf is as different as it is the same – going through the same biological and chemical processes, sharing resources, shaping and connecting with other life forms, and dying, yet dancing that final dance as a unique and beautiful solo performer. Once on the ground, these dead leaves continue their journey in a new form – decomposing, providing shelter and food for tiny living beings, making soil, becoming life again in a new manifestation. They will return to life as another tree, a mineral in the water, a bird in the sky, a molecule of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. And the cycle continues.
The autumn dance of leaves teaches us to let go, to accept what comes, to dance our own life’s dance with joy and wild abandon, and to support other living beings in every thing we do. As we enter this season of endings, let us be grateful for our chance to dance with the leaves and lift our eyes to the sky knowing we are connected to them through time and space.
Let go. Dance. Become.
Be the leaf.