Look into the sky, and you will see me–a golden leaf fluttering on the crisp autumn winds. I am blown about by the words and validations of those around me. These winds carry my moods, bringing me up among clouds or down to soaking, slippery asphalt. I flutter and spin, alone in the cloudless blue of a September sky. The leaves on trees, the strong ones, they jeer at me, shifting and rustling each other in mockery. They are an angry red, crimson as the rage they have against me. Another tree is adorned with oranges, both bright and deep. The leaves are clever, skillful in the way they rip pieces of me and keep them. I am the bit of yellow in their sea of flame-bright tangerine. When they have had their fun scraping me, sneering at my every brown spot and crinkled vein, I fall away and into the winds. The chill of autumn stings my brokenness, and even the warm airs that bring me to the sky cannot feed me with the belonging I crave. A tree of lush green lies in the distance–they wave to me in kindness, so unlike the crimson leaves of further back. But no, I am not whole like the leaves there. I am not innocent and carefree like the leaves there. They will never want my spots, my shredded, paper-thin self. To the ground I drop, ashamed, fatigued, and lonely. I am flattened to the chilly pavement under the heavy rubber of tires, stepped on, forgotten. Even the will to get up abandons me. The sky releases chilly rain, icy fingers stabbing me right in my wounds. Green leaves bow in compassion, orange leaves snicker, red look away.
And then I feel them.
Hands, warm and fleshy, peel me from the asphalt, being careful with the flimsy pieces of me that threaten to fall. Cradled in comfort and safety, I await my purpose. Was I so special and beautiful to be noticed, picked up, and carried away? Some time passes, and the whistle of the damp winds ceases. Instead, I hear the hum of a radiator and the whir of a washing machine. The hands brush away from sawdust from a work table and set me on it–gently, tenderly, so as not to break me. My rips are sewn together skillfully, the dirt and dust from the harsh world outside brushed away. The hands, rough from many years of woodwork, but still so gentle, attach me to a beautiful wreath of bent sticks, pinecones, and other sewn-together leaves. With great care, the hands hang my wreath on the front door. I am bright, beautiful, and radiant, now drawing the attention of leaves upon trees everywhere. The very things for which I was ridiculed for–my spots, my crinkled veins–only add to the splendor of the decoration. I am strong. I am secure. I am me–a beautiful golden treasure.