Knowing how difficult it is for many of us to make significant changes, I have enormous admiration for the easeful way in which other forms of life surrender to changes in their external world. Recently, on a retreat at Solitude, in the Midlands, I watched an autumn leaf falling to the ground . And I thought about how easily she submitted to a process which would be part of the degeneration and later, re-generation of life. As humans, we want to hold on so tightly to what we have or who we think we are, that we are often not open to the new life that can come from surrender.
I wrote this poem in honour of that leaf which has reminded me of my need to surrender certain attitudes and ways of being in order to reach new levels of depth and meaning. It also reminded me that in relationships I have the choice between power and release. If having the power is all important to me, and I do not relinquish that need to be right and to be in control, then I impoverish myself and the relationship.
The Leaf Gives Permission
She does not choose birth on the branch of an oak tree.
She does not beg to retain her spring-green coat.
She puts on clothes of burgundy, burnt orange, liquid amber and, finally, brittle brown.
When the late autumn wind calls to sweep her off,
she does not cling to her bough;
she does not cajole;
she does not scream for help.
Letting go, she spirals down
in her final dance,
joining the pile of leaves beneath the tree.
She does not choose her place.
She does not resist the frost
biting holes into her parchment skin.
Even having the last breath squeezed out of her
by her falling brothers and sisters causes her no distress.
She does not rise like the phoenix.
she sinks deeper,
allowing herself to soften into death.
She expects no applause;
no weeping or wailing;
no rending of garments.
no requiem mass for her.
Only the silence of the earth to which she returns.
Written by Juliette Jooste Gyure
(with acknowledgement to Wilfred Owen in the last three lines of the poem)