The late afternoon sun gleamed on the Californian highlands, lighting up the horizon in rainbow flames. 13-year-old Ryan came out into their almond orchard, book in hand, and settled down under his favourite tree. This was Ryan’s best-loved time of the day, when nature would graffiti the sky with its rose and gold poetry.
Autumn was fast approaching and its auburn hues were evident everywhere. Ryan looked around and soaked in the scent of the freshly harvested farm. Leaving the half-open book on the ground, he sauntered away to look for the iridescent beetles and butterflies that dotted the farm.
As a salubrious breeze blew, the book fluttered a little as the pages turned in quick succession.
“Quite a page turner, eh?” the book smiled indulgently at its self-deprecating humour when it suddenly happened to look up. And there it saw the most beautiful almond leaves dangling from the boughs. Large, oval, veined leaves with serrated edges, they were not the usual verdant green but had the colour of burnt sienna which seemed to melt into the mellow autumnal background. The beauty of the leaves left it completely enamoured. And alarmed!
“Hey Pruney, do you hear me?” the book called out urgently. “Here, right below – it’s me!”
The book vigorously swished its pages to grab the tree’s attention.
“Yes Booky, I hear and see you alright. What’s the matter?” Pruney replied gravely.
“Nothing much. It’s just that I thought you, err…you seem different! Actually you look beautiful, with your blazing crown of red and brown leaves barely clinging to you. A few more days and they’ll all be gone. Oh, how I’ll miss them! Wouldn’t you, Pruney? Why don’t you hold them back?”
“So you’re fretting about fall, are you?” The tree paused for a few moments before it continued sagely. ”Frankly, no, I’m not worried. If anything, I’m happy. Through the entire spring and summer, these leaves have been working overtime to nourish me and sustain other forms of life. The birds’ nests snuggled cosily among my branches; the fresh oxygen that your human breathes; the dense foliage that cleanses the air, provides shade and cools your home – these are all blessings from my leaves.”
“And now they’ll be gone forever….never to return!” Booky grumbled.
Pruney replied with an aura of earthy pragmatism.
“When they shed, they simply alter their form. As mulch, they enrich the soil. In their absence, the sunrays cascade to the dank earth below. Then, as spring arrives, they come back to me – their buoy and anchor – in a fresh new avatar.”
“Aah, I get it,” exclaimed Booky. “They fall, so they can rise again? So it’s never adieu, only au revoir, right?!”
Here, Pruney gently nodded and rustled.
Booky watched in awe as several almond leaves glided down in a joyful dance, creating a wondrous maple mosaic on the ground.
The last tango, before they transform… and evolve, Booky smiled, basking in the epiphany that change is often so beautiful!
Pruney: derived from Prunus dulcis, the scientific name for almond trees.
Adieu: a French word meaning a final goodbye.
Au revoir: a French word meaning goodbye until we meet again.
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