Natures Wisdom – Thich Nhat Hanh on Autumn Leaves: Life, Death, Continuation

Autumn leaf ©Emma Tuzzio

Falling Leaf ©Emma Tuzzio

As falling leaves bid farewell to the branch they knew as home, they dance joyfully as they descend back to the earth, fluttering, twirling and swirling through the crisp mid-autumn air. I used to feel a pang of sadness this time of year as I watched life wither away into the bleakness of winter. Decomposing foliage disintegrating into oblivion and animals retreating for hibernation. That was until I studied the seasonal transition of a tree, and discovered its continuos cycle of death and rebirth. Every death signalled new beginnings and ensured the survival of the tree.

With this new found perspective, I now look at Autumn with pure delight. Knowing the transitioning colours signal the end of one cycle and the beginning of another. Whilst the leaves may bid farewell to the tree, their decomposition provides fertile ground for new life to spring forth. Only in their death can they holds seeds of potential for new life to emerge.

In my research I stumbled upon this heartwarming passage on Autumn leaves by Thich Nhat Hanh; one of Buddhism’s greatest living masters: a poet, a translator and peace activist. His musings on the Autumn leaf left me awe-struck, tears welled up and my heart expanded as I grasped the sheer majesty of nature and the wisdom it holds.


Autumn leaf ©EmmaTuzzio

Autumn leaf ©EmmaTuzzio

“One Autumn day I was in a park and I looked at a very small beautiful leaf, it’s colour was almost red. It was barely hanging o the branch nearly ready to fall down. I spent a long time with it and I asked the leaf a number of questions. I found out the leaf had been a mother to the tree.

We usually think that the tree is the mother and the leaves are just children but as I looked at the leaf I saw that the leaf is also a mother to the tree. The sap that the roots take up is only water and minerals, not sufficient to nourish the tree, so the tree distributes the sap to the leaves, and the leaves transform the rough sap into an elaborated sap with the help of the sun and air and then send it back to the tree for nourishment. Therefore leaves are also a mother to the tree….

I asked the leaf whether it was scared because it was autumn and the other leaves were falling. The leaf told me, “No. During the whole spring and summer I was very alive. I worked hard and helped nourish the tree, and much of me is in the tree. I AM NOT LIMITED By this form. I am the whole tree, and when I go back to the soil, I will continue to nourish the tree. As I leave this branch and float to the ground, I will wave to the tree and tell her, ‘I will see you again very soon….

And after a while I saw the leaf leave the branch and float down to the soul dancing joyfully. Because as it floated it saw itself already there in the tree. It was so happy. I have a lot to learn from the leaf because it is not afraid – it knew nothing can be born and nothing can die.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh


Thich Nhat Hanh on an autumn leaf: life, death, continuation


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Posted in Autumn, Nature Lover, Wisdom & Inspiration
2 comments on “Natures Wisdom – Thich Nhat Hanh on Autumn Leaves: Life, Death, Continuation
  1. Sunith says:

    Beautiful post and loved your way of expression.


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I'm Emma; Just meandering through life on the road less travelled. Treading lightly on this beautiful planet, sewing seeds of inspiration, hope and grace.
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