Many people have a simple pleasure in life that truly brings them joy. Some love receiving colorful bouquets of flowers, while others enjoy indulging in chocolate or candy. My simple pleasure is something different; something that isn’t wrapped with a ribbon or placed into an elaborate box. It doesn’t wilt or melt in the hand, and it doesn’t need a special occasion to have a meaning. Although there are peak times of the year in which this activity is to be enjoyed, I eagerly wait for delicate pieces of flora to gracefully flutter from the trees and await their fate on the shivering concrete. I believe in crunching dead leaves.
When I first discovered my secret enjoyment of this somewhat sadistic activity, it was a dark, cold, and blustery day on the Cal Poly campus. Even walking the short distance from the parking lots, I pulled my chin to my chest to protect my face from the chilling wind. Depression and sadness filled my mind. I had recently found out that I hadn’t been awarded any financial aid for the quarter, my schedule consisted of eight consecutive hours of class a day, and my boyfriend was soon to be studying abroad on the other side of the world. I was going to be alone, and the thought of returning home for the summer made me feel sick to my stomach; all I could picture was a mundane routine of waking up at seven o’clock in the morning to begin the daylong task of shuttling my little sister around to her various activities. While pondering the miserable coming months, I suddenly heard the most satisfying noise.
It was the most delightful crunching sound I have ever heard in my life. My face pinched itself in confusion and looked down at the shattered leaf. It was absolutely beautiful, so perfectly broken in all the right places. Oh! And that sound! I was so excited I could hardly wait to seal another leaf’s fate beneath the sole of my checkered Vans. I lifted my head and set my gaze forward. It was as if every tree on campus had heard my delight and dropped their leaves. Running excitedly from one cluster of plant material to the next, I felt like a child. I even developed a game where I would try to identify the plant material by its scientific and common names before it became unrecognizable. Every leaf brought a brief moment of release and with every crunch, I’d clench my jaw with the utter satisfaction of dispelling unwanted emotion.
Sadly, the leaves do not have the power of changing present circumstances. My boyfriend is still going to leave me during the summer months, I still have no money, and I’m still returning home for the summer, but in the midst of the sorrow, I can find joy. I’ve learned to appreciate the small pleasures in life, because they are truly the only things that help me survive the day. Whenever I experience sadness, stress, anxiety, or whatever it may be, I take a deep breath, walk outside and wait for the trees to hear my request.
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