Not long ago I took a summer job at a local beer store.
Half of this job includes taking empty bottle returns, and often, a variety of random objects unexplainably find their way mixed in with the empties and into my workplace. These “empty-prizes” range from smoke packs and garbage to blood and poop (can I say that in the paper?), and one time I got a full, perfectly ripe cucumber.
Beyond seeing some of the strangest, grossest, mind boggling things, once in a blue moon I’ll come across something curiously curious. Something that I’ve never seen before and gets me wondering. My imagination explodes into a billion different pieces and I’m a goner: lost in the infinite Create-Your-Own playground in my very own mind.
On Monday, I saw something especially curious.
All morning during my shift, I’d heard over and over about how it was such a beautiful afternoon. At lunch, I decided to spend my break outside by the loading dock to re-energize and rebalance. Isn’t it awesome how nature does that?
I sat cross legged on the tiny grassy hill that looks down at an encompassing moat of pavement. A little green hill like an island in a sea of pavement. As I sat, I noticed a black maple leaf laying on the pavement.
It looked singed, and despite countless tiny holes leaving a weave of thin strands, it held its infamous structure and shape. Like a delicate charred veil, that if touched would instantly turn to dust. True to my nature, I had to investigate (wouldn’t you be curious too?).
I walked over and gingerly picked up the leaf by its stem between my thumb and fingertip. I gradually increased the intensity of my pinch, carefully testing it’s resistance to being snapped…like an old, crispy twig. To my surprise, the twig did not snap. The stem had a malleability to it, almost like a leaf plucked right from a healthy tree. It was almost like there was, somehow, life still trapped inside of it.
I then carefully thumbed the edge of the leaf to realize I could bend them without damage, I ran my fingers on its blackened, fractured surface expecting it to feel flakey, but it was a leathery, weathered skin of a perfectly preserved maple leaf — most likely sitting under a case of beer in someone’s Dad’s garage for the past 100 years.
Totally decomposed but still kept intact — like pressing a prom corsage between two heavy books to keep it forever (for whatever reason). It was like a rotted leaf mummy.
Maybe it was the black veil resemblance, but I felt a spooky energy trapped in the preserves. Life still stuck in a body that is dead.
Almost like “the ghost of nature past”. Completely dissolved but still alive- all on nature’s ability to adapt to human ignorance…or is that going too far?
A wise woman once told me our ancestors speak to us through dreams, nature, and the universe. I explored these messages and put the leaf in the grassy hill, asking for release of any remainings of a spirit left imprisoned in the preserved decay.
A type of helpless entrapment I swear I’d seen before.