The Wisdom Of Leaves – OpEd


I recall once hearing a children’s story of a leaf that was afraid to let go of its tree and fall to the ground. It clung tenaciously and fearfully to its branch, afraid of change. It longed for summer, and couldn’t imagine that anything good could come from leaving the familiar and known. Of course, eventually, it did fall, and as it did, it took in the view of the whole tree for the first time, and was amazed.

Here in the Cordillera region of the Philippines, powerful storms blow through our area. Gusty winds and heavy rain made things interesting around here for the past few days. You’d think that the trees, in the process of shedding their leaves, would be completely bare after that whopper of a storm. But despite the window-rattling gusts, there are still leaves clinging to some trees.  It’s easy to imagine them to be something like the scared leaf from the children’s story, afraid of change, not ready to let go, holding on with all their might despite the storms raging around them.

You know by now that I’m not just talking about leaves. We all have moments when we cling to the familiar, fear the inevitable, and refuse to let go. We hold on for all we’re worth, through storms and hurricane force winds, only to find that when we do let go, things aren’t so bad as they seem. Once we let go, we can see the big picture.

The story of the scared leaf is a lovely one, and holds its own truth. But there are many ways to look at a leaf.

We can imagine another story about a hanging-on leaf. This time, though, the leaf is not scared. It is wise. It trusts its own inner wisdom. It knows that change will come, but it doesn’t rush into things. Even though all those around it are leaping wildly into the wind, it instead listens to its own voice. It knows that all will be well, and there’s no need to rush. It doesn’t cling to the branch; instead it just waits patiently, knowing. All around it, autumn progresses into its fullness and beauty, and the wise leaf sees it all.  Finally, on a frosty November morning, when not a breath of wind is moving, it lets go and falls gently to the ground, ready for what comes next.

Each of these stories may hold truth for us at various times in our lives. If you see yourself in the first story, let go of fear and leap into the unknown. If you see yourself in the second story, trust your inner wisdom even though it may make you seem unusual or strange to others.

Nature is like this. It speaks. A single leaf can hold a multitude of insights, if we can open our eyes and hearts to them.


Dr. Michael A. Bengwayan

Dr. Michael A. Bengwayan wrote for the British Panos News and Features and GEMINI News Service, the Brunei Times, and US Environment News Service. In the Philippines, he wrote for DEPTHNews of the Press Foundation of Asia, Today, the Philippine Post, and Vera Files. A practicing environmentalist, he holds postgraduate degrees in environment resource management and development studies as a European Union (EU) Fellow at University College, Dublin, Ireland. He is currently a Fellow of Echoing Green Foundation of New York City. He now writes for Business Mirror and Eurasia Review.

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