Return to index click here

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

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

Return to index click here