The autumn breeze ran through the thin woods tugging at the birch trees. As it did, a leaf of golden hue broke free.
It cartwheeled and spun and danced upon that autumn breeze. Then the wind moved on and left the leaf to see-saw its way down. It fluttered while it fell and landed in a small stream. The gentle water yielded its surface to the delicate leaf, and thus began its voyage to the sea.
It crept around rocks and dark soil. It strolled through a narrow dip in the land, a place where two green fields came together and saw small children playing. Some prodded the edge with sticks while others dug up stones. Small dams were built by hand to see how long they would hold.
The stream twisted and turned and began to babble across stones as more waterways joined. The water widened and the banks curved, and the leaf passed slowly under an old bridge covered with moss. Above, a young couple exchanged their first kiss. As their lips met, a small burst of sun shone from behind the clouds. The golden hue of the leaf bloomed in that light, and the water that carried it glittered like liquid diamond.
The babbling brook poured into a broad river of stillness. The surface was a mirror for the turning trees that surrounded its bank, and all the world was afire with coloring leaves. The autumn wind sent ripples across this mirror, and the golden leaf became one among many. Small rings nipped at the water as small fish sought their meals. Kayaks split the scene with subtle wakes. The warm day of autumn carried on, and so did the leaf toward the sea.
The banks converged, and the water began to move with a quiet rage. Rushing water pushed and eddies pulled. The leaf spiraled and washed over white boulders as smooth as skin. It plunged into small pools and surfaced again. It was carried away by the rapid river and brought into a narrow canyon. The autumn wind whipped overhead and sang a gusty song. The setting sun shone from behind puffy white clouds. The narrow canyon knifed through the dark cliffs and opened into a sparkling waterfall. The water leapt over the side and the leaf took flight.
The leaf fluttered and danced with the wind again. It bathed in the sun, its own color mimicking that golden light. It fell quickly, heavy with the weight of the river, and made its way toward a man. He stood alone and afraid on the edge of a small cliff that overlooked the sea. He watched the setting sun and thought of things that should not be. That golden leaf came to him and landed softly near his foot.
The man picked it up and twirled it by the stem. Bold yellows and angry oranges splayed out from the center like a raging fire, and on close inspection he could still make out the green veins where previous life had been. He held that leaf in his hand and smelled the rain in the wind. He stayed a little longer, to think on life and love and to watch the sun set over the vast sea. He thought about the leaf, knowing its type, and wondered where it had come from. The small token of beauty rested safely in his hand, delicate and broken, yet still fierce with spirit. He took that leaf and went home, and did so while feeling a little less alone.