This post was originally published on April 10, 2020 on andyellwood.com.
On this morning’s walk through my garden, I was overwhelmed with how many of my plants have peeked their first shoots and buds through the cold spring ground just this week. Plants that I planted years ago are making their return to the Not So Secret Garden and bringing joy amidst all of the turmoil and insanity happening blocks away from this little refuge of stillness. The shrubs and bushes are regreening my morning coffee view and my imagination is racing with what new planting I will do this year.
But as I looked up this morning, smiling with the promise of new growth, I noticed something that didn’t register at first. On the massive tree that shades the garden from the morning summer sun, there was one last leaf. One dead leaf still hanging on at the end of a branch, a brown and crinkly leaf still sticking around. On branches just a little bit away, the buds of the spring bloom are forming. Every other plant or bush or tree is fully into new growth, but this one last leaf is holding on.
This morning, my reflection on the promise of new creation, the truth that what is old is gone and what is new is here was interrupted by this last leaf, this last reminder of the old in the middle of so much new. And after sitting down and spending some time focused on that last leaf, I noticed it actually wasn’t the last leaf I could see. It was just the last leaf still holding on to the branch where it was formed.
The other leaves I saw were less crisp; many more were no longer whole. They were scattered and decaying into the mulch and ground cover of the garden, becoming nutrients for the new growth that had first caught my eye this morning. These leaves were completing their journey and the cycle of new growth. They were no longer the identity of that tree, but they are now the sustenance of what comes next.
I am in a time of newness. So many of the things that have been my identity and what people saw when they looked at me have fallen away in this most recent personal and professional winter. But those dead leaves, those past descriptors, while not the story of what comes next, they are the fuel of brainstorms and supporting lessons of what is emerging as a new moment of growth and a renewing of the spirit.
Thankful this Good Friday for that last leaf and the promise that it brings.