Leaves scuttle and turn handsprings, racing rubber tires to the stop line, rushing to get out of the way. They laugh their way along, one great final fling in the season’s dimming lights. Their purpose served, their role played, their moment passed, and they fall like a curtain to close autumn’s act.
Why do they flutter so, when their day is done? Script concluded, all their lines performed, no more cues from phloem and xylem; no more prompting from mother tree, no more food. But they won’t die without a last dance. And the very winds that drive them from their trees become the music to their farewell jig.
Yes, they will settle into some lee or nook or grassy bed, out of the wind’s grasp, out of the elements, and there they will decompose, to give life to others. They don’t have life to fly in the face of their demise; but they still fly. Their green and golden dresses fade from the lights of summer’s scene, but they twirl anyway. They are going off stage for good, but they skip and tap dance out.
Why? Why not just fall like lead and lay where you land, and let yourselves be forgotten? Or why not mound and pile at the base of your trees, and make an edifice—however shortly lived—to your glory? Or why not moan and clog and haunt us with your death, menacing our lives with memory of yours?
Why? Because they groan with hope, longing for consummation. Their scene closes; the final act is yet to be performed. In life, they sing the Creator’s song, clapping their hands to His breathes of wind, lifting limb and hand in exultation. Now stiffening, they echo crisp and clear the song of ever-deeper life. They touched the sky in life, saw rain and hail and snow and mist, held bird and secrets from the air. And now they fall to earth, and touch it with heaven’s promise: little taps of leaf-Morse-code along the pavement, gentle caresses on grass that’s seen abuse and beating all year. They even travel to pond and ditch, where stagnant waters ripple with ticklish glee at their arrival.
Leaf’s demise brings the promise of winter rest, and the hope of spring. Trees always seem happy. I think it’s because they have learned the secret of being miserable without despairing, the way to endure pain without suffering, the way to die in order to live. And they teach it to their children, whose pods and seeds fly like the leaves and nestle in fertile crevices, spreading the happiness of hopeful labouring through a groaning creation.
In all your fallings today, may you reach for the hope of life, resurrection life, that brings beauty from demise, joy from misery, glory from barrenness. Listen to the song of the leaves, and take heart, because Life's play belongs to the Creator.