It was a crisp Saturday afternoon. I was playing in the backyard with my kids.
The lot beside our house had recently been graded in preparation for a new house. What had been a thicket of mixed pine and hardwood, bamboo and briar, was now a flat, dirt rectangle.
A leaf fell from one of the hardwoods at the back edge of the property and slowly glided into that lot.
It was the stark contrast of something so full of color falling into something so empty that made that moment stick in my brain. I remember thinking it was a sort of visual poem, with no words needed.
Of course, scenes like this play out everywhere everyday.
Leaves fall in the strangest places. Nature acts like…well…nature.
But it’s not art. It’s simply nature.
However, art can emerge from a simple moment like that when, through human engagement, it transcends the moment by connecting to the universal human experience.
When I saw that leaf land in that brown void, it connected me with who I am and what kind of world I live in. It reminded me that my time here is numbered and the world will go on without me. That nature is often bulldozed by human nature. And that a single leaf can call attention to emptiness, while simultaneously making it disappear.
All that from a random glance over my fence.
I’ve come to accept that I inhabit a world (and time) in which there’s so much to read that no one needs my writing. Yet I believe others benefit from me experiencing it in ways that helps them re-connect with themselves, others, the earth we inhabit and the great beyond.
Said another way, the world may not need more writing, but it sure needs more writers.
The world may not need more music, but it sure needs more musicians.
The world may not need more films, photographs, poems, paintings, sculptures or performances, but it sure needs more artists.
Why? Because artists offer transcendence in our transactional world.
And transcendence is always in short supply.
That, then, is my job and yours—to stay awake in a world that sleeps. And report what we see.
Or, maybe, in a world too busy to sleep, my job (and yours) is to dream.
From May 2012 to July 2013, I wrote a weekly series of intimate essays for writers and artists seeking a deeper connection with their identity and place as modern creatives. I called this series Root Notes. This was an essay in that series. It was originally published on February 17, 2013.