I was a shy young leaf on a little tree.
Our tree was little. Yes, we knew. We knew because the other trees never made us forget it. We heard it all the time. We were the smallest tree in the school.
The wind blew. And always, always, it carried the chants of the leaves on the other trees. Mocking chants.
The thin, graceful needles of the tall, tall pines, they needled us. “Look at you, look at you, so tiny, so tiny”, they whispered in the mornings. The broad, fat leaves of the teak trees, they glared at us in scorn. “It’s not even a tree” they said, “It’s just a large shrub”. We heard their taunting in the cool evenings. The mango leaves, with their sickly-sweet scent, added their voices to the chorus. “You have no flowers, you have no fruits”. We smelled the odour of their breath in the hot afternoons. Even the leaves of the orange tree, short and squat as it was, laughed at us.
And I was a shy young leaf on that tree. And I was an unhappy young leaf on that tree.
You see, I didn’t want to be a leaf anymore. Oh no. Not on that tree. Not on any tree. Not a leaf at all. Not anymore. It was so dull being a leaf all the time. Stalk attached to branch, branch attached to bigger branch, bigger branch attached to even bigger branch, even bigger branch attached to tree trunk. Attached, attached, attached. It was too much.
I wanted to be a bird. Like the ones who made their nests at the top of our tree, who flew away at dawn, and came back in the evenings, but only to rest. Then the next morning again, they were off. Such freedom. The places they could go, what they could see, going wherever the wind blew, what they could be!
But there I was. Stuck on the tree. The littlest tree in the school.
The elders of our tree, the older older leaves, the wise ones who were so brown with age, the brittle leaves, drooping with weakness, their stalks about to dis-attach from the branch, leaves about to be lost to the tree forever; these leaves told us, since we were little tendrils, little offshoots of green branch-stalk, they said to us, “Look up! Look up! Look to the Sun! Make food, make food! Feed the tree! Keep the tree alive!” And we did.
Since I was old enough, mature enough, green enough, since I cast off my adolescent yellow-green, I had looked up every morning, turned my narrow, green, venule-lined face to the sky and basked in joy as the Sun kissed my chlorophyll. I had whistled and whooped as the green buzz swept through me and I inhaled the carbon dioxide in the air and took up water from within, and made sugar. Oh wow. I made sugar.
It is the only glorious experience in the life of a leaf. And I loved it. But I knew there was more. Out there. Beyond our school walls. A world beyond. I wanted more. There had to be yet more joy out there in the world for a leaf like me.