In the beginning, I felt so tight and confined.

“It’s not yet time,” the icy winds roared in response to my impatience. “You must wait until the conditions are right, or you will perish before you’ve begun. Have patience — the joy of existence awaits, if only you follow the flow.”

And so, curled tightly, I gathered my excitement and waited for the glorious call. Finally, the day came when the sun’s ever strengthening rays beckoned to my cells and I burst forth into leafy abandon, a bud no more.

Knowing nothing of calendars or clocks, I acknowledge the sun’s arc through the sky as it radiates light and heat, only to disappear, leaving darkness to the waxing and waning moon.

In all, from bud to decaying debris I’ve counted more than four hundred glorious cycles, light to dark — then light again.

Ahh yes! After the call to unfurl, I grew from small to large, taking note of my fellow travelers in cluster, all of us attached by a stem to our life supporting branch. My branch, our branch, is just one among many extensions from our patron — a solid, healthy, thick trunk, that in turn is anchored to the earth by strong, thick roots. All parts of the whole owe gratitude to the tiny root hairs, drawing moisture and nutrients from the surrounding soil to keep us fed and watered.

To think my life — the mighty oak’s life, sprouted from a discarded acorn decades ago. What a wonder I am! What a wonder we are, all parts together!

I now wish I’d thought to share my story sooner, while I was rich and green — so vibrant and full of life. I could have covered days and details I’ve no longer the strength to recount. There’s no time for regret and I’ll instead spill forth what currently bubbles unhindered, like water from the nearby spring.

After darkness approached, something I’d not experienced in my unfurled state began to overtake me. The day had been dark and gloomy with much moisture in the air — encompassing me, every leaf, blade and branch.

I felt a chill settle with the disappearing sun’s rays and I remembered a sensation, of liquid becoming solid — encasing me, so long ago when I was still small — confined as a bud. Reminiscent, but not exactly the same, solidifying moisture wrapped me in its grasp.

Without request, I’d been given a tight fitting jacket that offered no warmth.

I waited, wondering — What will the sun’s rise bring to this situation?

As dawn broke, sun rising higher, rays bounced and twinkled upon the facets of frozen dew. The world was transformed, everything within sight now wore a sparkling coat.

The approach of feet was different in sound and vibration today. With each step, the grass — frozen like me, held for the slightest moment before giving way to the traveler. It seemed frost was reluctant to give up its hold, shattering and scattering to the dirt below.

The tourist stopped at my branch, each stem in our cluster still holding with our remaining strength. I was certain her eyes lingered upon my rich red fall attire, now accented and outlined in shimmering white. She removed her dark glasses and took a photo before moving on.

“Stay,” I whispered, but she did not hear.

As the sun crested the tree line and leaned more intensely upon my surface, I could feel the frost tickling as it melted back to liquid form. Heavy — I felt so heavy. My weary stem could no longer hold the branch. With a sigh, I released, falling to join so many who’d gone before. We littered the ground in shades of burnt umber, hazel and garnet.

I’d known it was only a matter of time.

I like to believe that when the visitor paused on her return trip, she noticed that I’d fallen.

She did not stop, but I believe as a fellow traveler through this world, she recognized my transience and honored my travel through the cycles and the seasons. How many cycles and seasons she’ll be gifted is not for me, nor her to know.

From my resting place, I wished her well and murmured, “Continue your excursion. Acknowledge the sun, the moon and all that transpires. Cycles bleed one into the next — welcome each. One day, you too will fall, but do not fear. Letting go is meant to be.”