Like a leaf we have many stems - by Thich Naht Hanh

Frunze magice

(November, 2012)


"One autumn day, I was in a park, absorbed in the contemplation of a very small, beautiful leaf, shaped like a heart. Its colour was almost red, and it was barely hanging on the branch, nearly ready to fall down. I spent a long time with it, and I asked the leaf a number of questions. I found out that the leaf had been a mother to the tree. Usually we think that the tree is the mother and the leaves are just the children but as I looked at the leaf I saw that the leaf is also mother to the tree. The sap that the roots take up is only water and minerals, not sufficient to nourish the tree. So the tree distributes that sap to the leaves, and the leaves transform it with the help of the sun and the air, and send it back to the tree for nourishment. This communication between leaf and tree is easy to see because the leaf is connected to the tree by a stem.

We do not have a stem linking us to our mother anymore, but when we were in her womb we had a long stem, an umbilical cord. The oxygen and the nourishment we needed came to us through that stem. But on the day we were born, it was cut off, and we had the illusion that we became independent. That was not true. We continue to rely on our mother for a very long time, and we have many other mothers as well. The earth is our mother. We have a great many stems linking us to our Mother Earth. There are stems linking us to the clouds: if there are no clouds, there will be no water for us to drink. We are made of over seventy percent water, and the stem between the cloud and us is really there. This is also the case with the river, the forest, the logger and the farmer. There are hundreds and thousands of stems linking us to everything in the universe, supporting us and making it possible for us to be. Do you see the link between you and me?…

I asked the leaf whether it was frightened because it was autumn and the other leaves were falling. The leaf told me “No. During the whole Spring and Summer I was completely alive. I worked hard to nourish the tree and now much of me is in that tree. I am not limited by this form. I am also the whole tree, and when I go back to the soil I will continue to nourish the tree. So don’t worry at all. As I leave this branch and float to the ground, I will wave to the tree and tell her ‘I will see you again very soon’”

That day there was a wind blowing and, after a while, I saw the leaf leave the branch and float to the soil, dancing joyfully because as it floated it saw itself already there in the tree. It was so happy. I bowed my head knowing I have a lot to learn from that leaf."

Ref: Peace is Every Step, Thich Nhat Hanh, Rider 1991