Heaven's Dust A fable by Lisa Suhay Leaf looked out across the broad, dawn-pink sky and

down over the beautiful spri ng garden. The dewy breeze grazed it and left it shimmering, fluttering. As it moved, Leaf saw all the corners of the garden with its flowers, bushes, tr ees and animals. Leaf stretched to catch every sight and sound. It was a new lea f at the top of a very old tree. Leaf adored all the elements - wind, sun and rain. But it was in love with the w ind. Wind gave it the freedom of motion. Without the breeze it would never have seen the world below or from side to side. Wind rocked Leaf to sleep and shook it awa ke. Wind made Leaf dance. Wind whistled haunting tunes through the branches, it whispered and sometimes it even sang. On many days, Wind told Leaf of the places it had been. "All across the Rivers a nd down to the sea have I been," whispered Wind. On that day, Leaf could even sm ell the scent of the water and salty places of which Wind spoke. "High up the mountain to the very door of Heaven today," Wind told, as the fresh clean smells settled down upon Leaf. "I have seen where the Blue-sky ends and b irds cease to wing. I have heard the voice of Life itself and it is so beautiful ." Leaf shuddered with the thought of having Life speak to it as it did to Wind. "W hen will life speak to me?" Leaf asked Wind. The breeze warmed as it blew over Leaf and Wind said softly, "You can Hear Life' s voice in me." Whenever it blew past, be it a breeze or gale, the little green leaf waved a joy ful greeting to Wind - like the hand of a happy child to a loved one. "I will love you for all time," Leaf whispered to the moving air around it. "I c ould not be happier." Hearing this promise Tree itself shook and emitted a deep chuckle. "I am glad yo u are happy now," the tree said. "Enjoy your youth and beauty while you can, for soon enough you will be withered and brown, dry as dust and blown away with by the same breeze that stirs your heart today." Leaf stiffened at these words. The other leaves said nothing. One or two fell li ke tears before their time, so stricken were they by the sadness. "That is not so!" Leaf cried. Tree shook again and said, "Oh but it is true. I have seen many, many leaves fro m many trees fall and crumble. Your time will come to curse the wind and the way of things. Wind is old and you are young. Ask Wind sometime." The tree said no more. Leaf tried not to think about what Tree had said. Of cour se it had heard the stories of how leaves grow old and die, but still it would n ever be hateful. That very day, Leaf made a decision. It shouted to the world, "I will Never hate

Wind. I will not give in to fear or unhappiness." Still, the next time Wind came to call, Leaf could not help but ask. "When I bec ome old, dry and brittle will you destroy me as Tree says," Leaf asked. Wind was silent for a long moment. "I will not destroy you my dear one," Wind sa id. "All Earthly things grow old and dry. That is not my doing." Leaf was shaking and Wind could see the fear beginning to overtake Leaf. Wind ad ded, "Keep your promise not to give in to hate and sorrow and when the time come s for you to fall, I will be there to catch you. It will be a beginning and not and end for you." Again Leaf felt strong. "Tell me of your travels," Leaf said. Wind spoke well in to the night. Time passed. Leaf grew and changed. At first it became very big and strong. Then , as the air grew chill, Leaf began to take on the most magnificent colors. Firs t a yellow cast and then little patches of red and gold began to creep across it . "You are most beautiful today," whispered Wind. "I do not think that of all the leaves in the world there is one to match you." Leaf shook a bit, knowing full well that many of the others had also begun to ch ange and take on different hues. Still, the words brought joy. "It is the beginning of the end for you and all your kind," Tree said. "Soon now , oh so soon, you will be nothing but a speck in the dirt." All the other leaves began to droop and some even tumbled from their homes early as the weight of that unhappy thought dragged them down to Earth. Not Leaf. "Words, words, words," Leaf laughed. "You cannot harm me with words. I choose to be happy with my fate. Others choose to be sad. The only one who will be sad when I am gone is you old tree for then who will you talk to?" Tree shook with frustration and anger. "You will see," Tree bellowed. "You will be dirt!" As days passed Leaf began to feel thin and tired. The bright colors that covered Leaf darkened to brown and Leaf knew its time grew short. Still it would not be sad because each day now Wind told Leaf of the wonderful adventures that were t o come. Just seeing Leaf cling to happiness while all those around it fell made Tree ang ry. One day it could stand it no more and when Wind came to call, Tree shook for all it was worth and Leaf snapped away from its branch and began to fall. Tree watched and waited for Leaf to scream and cry, to realize what horror had j ust befallen it. Instead Tree heard the sound of laughter. One moment Leaf was held fast to Tree and the next it was falling, flipping end over end. "I am flying!" Leaf laughed in pure joy. "You are falling! Plunging," shouted Tree. "I am soaring like a little bird," Leaf sang out. "See how I go!" Leaf felt something lift it up. It was Wind come to keep its promise. "I cannot

take you far right now, just to rest on the ground. No matter what happens, do n ot be afraid. I will return for you." Wind carried Leaf ever so gently to the ground and allowed it to rest there. Lea f could feel the rumble of the roots from Tree as it laughed and said," You see? Now you are ready to become like all the others. It is all just as I said. Just give up now." Leaf was not stirred to sadness by Tree's words. It did not answer, but lay quie tly looking up at the world. It all looked so different now. After a time, Leaf nodded off to sleep and a long time passed before it woke. Instead of feeling old, stiff and papery, Leaf felt suddenly free to move about. It could hear wind singing softly through the trees and felt itself being lifte d and spun higher and higher. "Did I not promise all would be well," crooned Wind. "You have become the dust o f the Earth, so light and so fine that I can carry you anywhere with me." And so Wind did carry the dust of Leaf and scattered it over fields, onto the ba cks of birds that flew to mountains and into streams that led to oceans. Finally Wind seeded the clouds with the last few tiny grains that were once Leaf and Le af came back to Earth with rains and snows. Everywhere it fell the remains of Leaf brought a grain of pure joy, a drop Of ho pe and touch of love for wind and life. One day in springtime Wind rustled past Tree and heard Tree telling all the youn g leaves about the Leaf that had loved the Wind and perished in the dirt. Wind came back through Tree singing a breezy tune, "Listen my children, but not to those who tell you that your fate is in the dirt. Listen to me instead. I wil l tell the tale of how you will become Heaven's Dust. Believe and you will never dread." If ever you wonder which leaves listen to Wind and not Tree, look up on a stormy day and see, which ones wave, a joyous greeting and which fall down in sorrow.

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