If you catch a falling leaf before it touches the ground, you can make a wish.
If you give it to someone else without making your own wish, the magic is even stronger.
Almost exactly two years ago something happened on a run which remains very special to me. This post is only tangentially about running, although I do draw a connection below.
It is really about remarkable things which happen, all around us, all the time.
On this particular October morning, I had got up to finish a book called “If nobody speaks of remarkable things” by Jon McGregor. Even if I understood it fully, which is dubious, I would hesitate to try to explain it here; but I know it made a profound impression on me, and now lives on my Shelf of Very Special Books.
On the return half of my run, I came to a clearing in the woods which is a favourite place for me, but at this time of the year – with the trees all gold and the ground carpeted with fallen leaves – especially so. Suddenly, close to my left as I meandered along, was a leaf: a single leaf suspended about a metre above the ground, hanging there and hovering in the gentle breeze.
Of course dead leaves get stuck in bushes and other things all the time. But this one seemed to have found a single thread of silk in the clearing, a spider’s gentle glide from somewhere high overhead down to the ground. It didn’t fall an inch to the right, or left, or a few metres higher up: it found that one spot, stuck, and then hung. Until I passed.
How many tiny turns of fate brought me to that point? What lead me to set off at that particular time that day, and how many times did I improvise my route that morning? How many micro-adjustments around the trees, avoiding the rocks and tree-roots and bogs, brought me to within a metre or so of that particular spot? How long had it been there; and why hadn’t it been brought down by a falling twig or gust of wind?
Why didn’t I happen to be looking on the other side as I passed? And why on the morning when I had purposely finished that book before setting out?
Why do I find such delight in this small incident? So many mysteries; so many beauties. A million leaves must have fallen that morning in a million places, so why do I dwell so much on this one?
I will make just two connections to my running:-
- First, I have caught (and tried but failed to catch… It’s harder than you think!) falling leaves many times when out running, and when I succeed I feel that I am going to solve a problem, or have a positive change of luck, or at least a good run. More than one Robin Hood Half Marathon has been determined by the leaves drifting down from the giant trees in Wollaton Park or the Embankment.
- Second, my running does not take place in my body alone, but also in my spirit; these are the questions and emotions I carry within me all the time (too much of the time, I fear) and in the refuge of my running I discover them; running liberates them, answers them; the joys and awe, the questions and occasional answers settle within me.
After staying a while and marvelling, and feeling priveliged and small, I left the clearing. I didn’t take the leaf. I didn’t make a wish, not in the usual way. I didn’t give it a gentle kiss; and I didn’t drop it to the ground. I didn’t even give it to anyone I love.
But I have shared it with you now.
I hope it may bring you what you would wish for.
And if today, you see something remarkable… please speak of it with someone.