A fantastically large, deciduous tree sits embedded in the center of the lawn, in front of my kindergarten school. As I pass under it each day, I stare up and admire the light filtering through the leaves. Someday, I could climb that, I think.
In late November, countless leaves fill the grass surrounding the tree. Yellow, orange, gold, brown, umber, burnt sienna, I think of all the Crayola colors that I know to name. They don't do justice to what I witness; I am unable to name the subtle hues and patterns of the cross-hatched leaf mesh or the crunching-crackle and squishing-sludge sounds as I walk through the half dry and crisp, half muddy patches of leaves. Running inside, it begins to rain and I spend the rest of the day watching the droplets pelt the classroom window. I dream in class, not looking away from the wet glass. The teacher mumbles incoherently.
After school, I walk outside and stop at about, what seems to me, a mile away from the base of the trunk. There is a dark lake surrounding the tree, filled with leaves. The rain has subsided and now wavers between a soft drizzle and nonexistence. The wind is gentle but it blows several pieces and clumps of leaves, which are floating around in the water. I stare.
I stare at the lake and dream of leaves and the microbiological worlds traveling upon them from the great distance where I stand to the base of the tree. I stare until all the other children have fled our daytime institution.
There is a tiny bug, floating there on a leaf, facing the wind and the water, fighting against uncontrollable forces, so far from its destination. It has so much space to travel, so much to see, to do, to experience, so long before it gets where it wants to go. This bug is so young, so vulnerable.
The sky grows grayer and the rain begins to trickle steadily. I continue to watch the leaf as the water from above beats it into the water below. The leaf with my bug vanishes into the depths of the lake as I watch it go down. I wait for it to come back up to the surface, bearing the little adventurer, the bug with no fear, the one who faced it all without objection. I wait.
I am shook awake by my mother who is standing hunched over in the rain, her arms on my shoulders, staring me in the eye. "Are you OK? Where have you been? You were supposed to be home two hours ago!"
I look up from the dead leaves and the water, into the eyes of my mother, and cry.