It had started off misty and grey that day, the air damp and cool against my cheeks. By the time I reached the halfway point of the walk, the earlier haze of the morning had cleared to expose a blue sky pierced by the unexpectedly intense sun. The light filtered through the trees, dappling the path ahead of me. Up above, some branches appeared heavy with the weight of leaves about to fall whilst others were already bare, their bony fingers reaching for the cerulean sky. Leaves of every colour were on the path, ranging from freshly fallen to those in decay.
This beautiful leaf appeared before me in the woods, covered in water droplets from the recent rain and damp from lying on the forest floor. As I walked, I carried my newly fallen leaf upside down, its stalk grasped between my finger and thumb as it dried in the breeze. It appeared to be the perfect autumn leaf.
For a couple of days the leaf sat on my desk at home serving as a reminder of that day when I felt I was a million miles from the city, basking in the beauty of the autumn sunshine. During that time, I desperately wanted to go back to the woods to experience the sense of being free from an urban landscape once more. But slowly the leaf began to dry out and lose its shape. It started curling at the edges and the brightness of its green and yellow flesh began to fade. No longer shiny, its surface became rough and dull, a shadow of its former self. Finally it folded in on itself, as if ashamed of its visible breakdown.
Witnessing the biological changes within the leaf, I recognised that things are sometimes better kept as memories. In the same way that the leaf could not remain soft and fresh, those moments in the woods have passed, and going back there will not enable me to relive that morning. When we try to recreate an event or a feeling, it cannot have the same joy as the original experience. Returning to the woods won’t give me the same feeling I had had on that particular day; we cannot repeat something just by returning to the location. That’s not to say that it wouldn’t be enjoyable to go back, but some things will always taste sweeter the first time.
In a different forest on another day, there will be more leaves to discover with their own individual beauty. If I choose to bring them home with me, they will serve as a visible reminder of the happy memories made that day. These leaves, too, will become crisp and withered, and I will remember a few hours experiencing something that I cannot repeat. Some things are better left as memories; to try to recreate them will only lead to disappointment. Happiness comes in recognising and enjoying life as it happens, creating memories and finding satisfaction despite knowing that the present can only be held briefly.