From an early age, I turned to nature whenever I couldn’t make sense of the world around me—which was pretty much all the time.
I’d get home from school, just to race out the back door as soon as my feet hit the floor, disappearing to be among the trees and bugs and wild things. The lessons of mother nature, carried on the whispers of the evergreens and pitter patter feet of tiny creepy crawlies, always spoke to me the way nothing else could, showing me the way the world was meant to be through discreet messages and extravagant analogies.
Now, as I walk barefoot in the dirt, pondering humanity, I am overwhelmed by the animosity and lack of acceptance that devours the human race.
Whether it be skin color or spirituality, style choice or career, criticism and degradation rule the day, as we still choose to segregate those around us for their differences. Are we really satisfied with that? I know that I’m not.
I plop down in the grass with a frustrated puff of air and try to come up with the best words to express what I feel inside. Looking around, I am struck by how as a whole, the pile of leaves I am sitting in looks like an aerial view of a crowd of people, and suddenly I understand that nature has presented me with yet another lesson.
From far away each leaf looks the same, blurs of color, shapeless blobs lost in the masses. Take a closer look and you will find that just like people, leaves are all different.
The one I hold between my fingers now, mostly red with green and yellow splotches, has two tiny holes right in the center, most likely from an insect, although I can’t be sure. It reminds me of the man I just saw crossing the street, the one with the confident gait and flash of indie style. He radiates warmth in reds and yellows, but his eyes look glassy and wet, hinting at fresh heartache, juvenile holes to the heart.
The one lying on the ground near my shoe is withered and browning, but when I pick it up, it’s supple, bending in my fingers instead of crumbling. This one is the old woman I let cut in front of me at the store the other day. Her body is wrinkled and aged, but when the clerk asks if she needs help, she laughs as if she knows something we don’t, and with a smile, effortlessly scoops her groceries up in a bear hug. Dropping the brown leaf, it flutters to the ground in a graceful spiral.
The one that catches my eye next is tear-shaped, barely visible behind a barren bush. Picking it up, I turn it round and round in my palm, analyzing its surface bleached pale from the sun, its underside purple and speckled, a slight rip near the stem. This leaf is me, outwardly washed-out, paled from societal and self-judgment, unsure of the purple speckled interior I hide from the world.
I place my leaf purple side up in the middle of the pile and step back to look at the crowd. They all look different, coming in various sizes, shades, textures, and styles. Whether people or leaves, no two are exactly alike. Every leaf has its own unique combination of characteristics, an inimitable masterpiece of holes and colors, ridges and cuts.
We couldn’t change them if we tried.
We can color over their differences, make them conform, make them look all the same, but at the end of the day, underneath everything, each leaf has not changed—they are still as unique and different as they were before. The only thing we’ve done is try to hide their beauty from the world.
The same goes for people. Every person you might encounter has a unique appearance, but dig deeper, and each one has an individual hard-drive filled with distinctive data, matchless stories and inspirations, wounds and desires.
We cover up each other’s individuality, force conformity, but why?
Each person has something exceptionally them to offer the world. They have no more ability to change themselves than the leaves do and all the degradation and torment that people receive for their eccentricities just covers up a beauty that the world desperately needs, especially now.
In our fast paced society, few people stop to notice the leaves, missing the importance in the lesson they can teach us.
Take the time to look at the leaves, really look at them. Hold one in each hand and study their differences, their curves and colors, the art that is each one, and I can learn all that I need to know about differences and acceptance among my human brethren.
So with that said, I challenge you to take a moment to go look closely at the leaves, and in doing so, embrace your differences and the differences of others, for this, I fully believe, is the true intention of nature.
“Nature made us individuals, as she did the flowers and the pebbles; but we are afraid to be peculiar, and so our society resembles a bag of marbles, or a string of mold candles. Why should we all dress after the same fashion? The frost never paints my windows twice alike.” ~ Lydia Maria Child
Author: Heather Lacy
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Cecil Vedemil/Unsplash