The leaf and the tree

Parabole in memory of all those whose apparent presence we lost

An Autumn afternoon I was in a park, contemplating a pretty and very small leaf shaped as a heart. It was reddish and it dangled from a branch, as if it were about to fall. I spent a long time with it and asked it many questions. I learned that the leaf had been the mother of the tree. Generally, we think that the tree is the mother and the leaves are its children. But when I looked at the leaf I saw that it was also the mother of the tree. The sap that roots take is nothing more than water and minerals, which are not enough to nurture the tree, so the tree distributes the sap to the leaves. The leaves transform this rudimentary sap into elaborated sap and, with the help of the sun and the gas, send it back to nourish the tree. Besides, because the leaf is joined to the tree by the stem, it is easy to see that they both communicate.

I asked the leaf if it was afraid because autumn had arrived and the other leaves were falling. The leaf told me: “I am not afraid. During the entire spring and summer I was very alive. I worked and helped nourish the tree and a great deal of me is part of that tree. Please, do not say that I am only this small form, because the shape of the leaf is only a small part of me. I am the entire tree. I know that I am in the tree, and that, when I return to the soil, I will continue nurturing the tree. That is why I am not worried. When I leave this branch and gently fall to the soil, I will wave to the tree and will tell it ‘see you soon’.

(TichNhatHanh, VietNamese Zen master, Beeng Peace, 1987)

Translated from the Spanish by Mertxe de Renobales Scheifler