Cascades flow nearby, its steady rhythm lulling me into a trance. The smell of the woods is delicious. The rock I sit on is multicolored with splashes of white and strips of green lichens growing along crevasses. It has a life of its own. I notice more detail the longer I sit here. Things that existed all along, but were somehow lost in the busy scene in front of me. After a time I notice something struggling.
A large tulip leaf lies plastered over a rock, drenched by the sporadic shower as whitecaps flow on either side of the rock. The colorful leaf is hanging on for dear life. It looks like four legs are draped out trying to hold on with not help in sight. This is the life of a loner.
He will see things that can only be imagined by most, and he may die in a spectacular way or with remarkable circumstances. Flying solo, he has no backup when the day goes awry. Swept off a rock, clinging for life. Yet still we all die someday. If only the loner’s story could be told.
Beauty emanates as he grips the rock, practically wrapped around it, perhaps in his finest hour based on the richness of his color. But I don’t feel compelled to help him. This is the final page of his story and he must write it. He could be an artist; someone who hopefully has published his story along the way to help us to understand how he got here. The backstory is always tucked away conveniently in the shadows.
The leaf has gone through its years of attachment to its mother, clinging on for survival. As youths we hear the loud directives, often times the only way they know to speak. Often for our own survival. Family, teachers, friends all had their say. Friends chose to stay among those of like interests, and some took cover to mature and present their gifts later, at their appropriate time. We must cut loose to finish our course.
A solitary yellow butterfly darts in and out of shadows, preferring sunlight. In the shade hides unsightly things and those who choose to be hid. I watch the butterfly dance about but not really wanting its place in the sun. I prefer to be the yellow or red leaf, floating lazily downstream, enjoying those final days or hours to the fullest. Seeing what others don’t see that dance about in the spotlight, among crowds, wanting to be noticed. Along the way the leaves fit into their own groove. They morph into what seems the fittest.
Passerby’s stop and look upon the fall scene and smile, reflecting on their own lives as times past and memories wash over them as the beauty unfolds. The leaf is part of the bigger picture, part of a complete scene. Like an actor, one of dozens, with a bit part.
I am following a leaf now; it survived a small set of rapids and is floating again, further downstream. Some get collected in bunches around rocks and limbs shortly after leaving their tether. Others make it through the crowds on to new adventures, in their golden hour. A portion sinks to the bottom after being set free and turns quietly into the foundation for their successors. Why is that? Shouldn’t we all enjoy the glory of our golden hour?
Deep pools of black water pull in what’s dancing overhead, its reflections capturing them peering in. The butterflies and their friends. Their beauty is diffracted by the pools of darkness, but the result is stunning. Black water deflects light, but dark normally absorbs. During nighttime it pulls in all illumination and blankets its hidden secrets in a cloak of protectiveness. During daytime it does the opposite. The creek is a place of renewal and follows the course of life.
I see a city in the dark water’s reflection. Our worlds merge here. Ripples of life run out from the center and touch everything in their path. I see myself in a small corner of the city, then spreading out as though a pebble was dropped in, sending my introspections to all four corners.
A lower tone of light just settled on me. A reminder that the twilight hour is approaching again. The leaf won’t be there tomorrow after the overnight storms change the landscape. Its time is now.
Another gentle shower of yellow leaves is falling into the creek, beginning their final journey after spending a lifetime connected to a branch for nourishment and survival.
A couple is watching the scene from the old stone arched bridge.
Will they be inspired, take photos, tell others, and encourage a love for nature in their kids? That’s quite a legacy for a single leave floating along, painting the landscape with its unique art, and dissolving into the bigger picture. Maybe someone is watching me that way from a distance, from a bridge or otherwise.
Prelude to “The Backstory”
Craig Elliott 2016