Perhaps you’ve noticed this. It isn’t rare. I’ve seen it in various places. A single leaf – it may be of a tree or small shrub – waving. It always catches my eye because the leaf seems to be moving by itself. The other leaves around it are still. But this leaf moves in rhythmic jerks, as if it is fluttering in a breeze intended for it alone.
When I was young I imagined an unseen spider of some unique specie tugging at the gossamer thread she had attached to the leaf, in some bizarre habit of luring prey or attracting a mate or perhaps warding off predators.
But I never actually took the time or made the effort to go as close as I could go, to see what I could see, to perhaps discover the mysterious cause of the solitary leaf movement. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I was prevented by the fear of a spider. After all, curiosity killed the cat.
Then, as if avoiding a charge of cowardice, I considered alternate explanations to the spider hypothesis. Since we cannot see air currents, it is possible that some unique wind pattern may exist – some very small, lone eddy of air that remains for a time like a coin spinning on a table, only strong enough to affect a single leaf.
For the very reason that the movements of air cannot be seen, it would require technical knowledge and skills beyond my own to come up with an experiment to demonstrate such a theory. So, just as I did not go up close to see the spider, neither did I seek to prove or disprove the “tiny wind” possibility.
As my eyes have not been able to shed light on this mystery, the explanation remains unknown. Inevitably, I turn to supernatural possibilities. Almost embarrassed by its child-like qualities, my mind pictures an unseen spirit-being with nothing better to do than to stand next to some defenseless plant and incessantly flick one of its leaves with its finger.
If I don’t bother to think much about that particular explanation, it is because it seems nothing more than fantasy. It is like reading a bed-time story to children. It takes the cares of the day and sets them aside. It provides comfort and makes me smile. It allows me to close my eyes and go to sleep, so that I will grow up to be a big, strong, healthy man.
Once again, I have not sought to solve this mystery. I have simply said it may be this or it may be that. Yet, I have left these things undone. It is too easy to justify my complacency. After all, it’s only a single leaf on a single plant in a single garden or in some insignificant woods. I imagine there are more important things. Aren’t there?