No, this isn’t some great upset in the NHL franchise. Nor is it a sudden realisation by Toronto that their Ice Hockey team has been spelling its name incorrectly for decades. It’s simply a posting about maple leaves. From Vancouver.
About four years ago I suddenly had my eyes opened. I started to notice little things that had previously just passed me by un-remarked. Beautiful things. Interesting things. Remarkable things. Amongst this long list was maple leaves. Around this time of year, or actually a little later, the local trees start shedding their leaves. The maples – up until now pretty anonymous and blending in with the rest of the biosphere – suddenly decide to get all showy, turn bright vermilion and yell “look at me, peasants!” The glory of the red in the trees (and shortly thereafter – the pavement) can literally be breathtaking.
This year our BC summer was particularly long and hot. So much so that many trees went into shock and started behaving like autumn was already here. It was apparently more prudent to shut up shop early for the winter rather than try to continue actively growing in the face of a complete absence of the usually plentiful wet coast airborne moisture. So – we started to get beautiful red maple leaves falling in ever growing numbers even in what should really still be late summer. Without the accompaniment of the autumn wetness though, many of these leaves remained pristine after falling to the ground. Every year I take note of the fallen leaves and occasionally am moved to pause and pick one up. I couldn’t really explain why to you. Something about a specific leaf simply moves me to stoop and save it from a fate worse than compost. With the dry ground, there have been more occasions than usual this year.
I began to consider these leaves as a metaphor for people. We each have the potential to be wonderful, eye-catching. Either individually or as part of a broader group. We can still create an impact in the world even after we’ve ceased to live. We can continue to contribute to our world by leaving a legacy of beauty. Of positive psychological impact on others around us. Then again, even the most beautiful amongst us – if we care to look more closely – is imperfect. A slight asymmetry perhaps. A little rougher on the edges than we’d first perceived. Sometimes completely broken on the inside despite the appearance of complete wholesomeness to the casual glance. We can be downtrodden, utterly destroyed by the casual or indeed intimate passing interaction of another. We can be ignored and slowly disappear into the noise of the world, never to be recognised for our individual contribution – great though it may well have been.
So now I take notice. I LOOK at the fallen leaves. Notice them. Especially the maples. They have come to represent for me the unknown people of the world. Those I’ll never meet but have a contribution to make to the space I inhabit. Occasionally I am so moved that I pause and pick one up. I press it in the pages of the book I am inevitably carrying at such thoughtful moments. I save it. For what, I am not sure. To share? To offer as a cryptic gift to someone else on this weird journey we call life? Perhaps. Or perhaps just to say in some small way “you mattered”. You were noticed. Your contribution did not go without reaction.