By Bob Groeneveld
I was sitting for a quiet, relaxing moment after having completed some strenuous yard work.
I was trying to decide whether to head inside for a beer, get back to what I was working on, maybe switch to another project… or head inside for a beer.
And just when I decided I would do none the above – I would just sit and enjoy the late afternoon sunshine and bask in the warmth of accomplishment gleaned from a job more than half done – the silence was broken by a gentle rustle emanating from somewhere near the top of the oak tree.
I looked up, and as I did, the rustle was followed by a more distinct sound… a more distinct rustle.
I couldn’t see anything through the oak’s thick mantle of just-yellowing leaves.
Perhaps a bird?
Perhaps one of our chickadees?
Or a junco hunting for bugs venturing out of hiding on an uncharacteristically sunny and warm autumn day?
The sound grew as my ears strove to follow it down the tree.
Maybe it was something bigger, perhaps a robin or a Steller’s Jay. Or a flicker?
Soon it became something akin to a crashing, like something was stomping its way down through the branches.
This couldn’t be a mere bird.
Probably a squirrel… yes, a squirrel.
Although, it seemed awfully straightforward and insistent for our more usually frivolous squirrels.
The crashing crescendoed just as the perpetrator spilled out of the underside of the tree’s canopy.
It was a leaf.
It was a single, solitary yellow oak leaf.
It was a small leaf, dried and withered from the exhaustive work of feeding a massive oak stem from spring, through summer, and into this year’s extended fall.
It was just a tiny leaf now huddled among tens of thousands of others – soon to be joined by hundreds of thousands more – at the feet of the ancient giant that spawned it months ago.
The oak, grown old through the annual sacrifices of so many such tiny leaves, never noticed its existence.
But I did.
It did not go gently into that good night.
It did not die without memory.
It did not enter the abyss unnoticed.
It’s raucous descent into its own demise left an impression on me.
And now, perhaps, on you.