Chisana-ha wanted to dance under a bright light for all the world to see. She knew she couldn’t do that, being born to the lower branch of life. She dreamed of being twirled, the way a drifting cobweb traps, then delicately holds and sways wind-blown leaves. There was beauty in that.
“That cannot be,” her friend Tei-ha said, “for you were born into this caste system.”
“I would just like to dance,” she said, “like the higher class.”
“They would only see you for what you are.”
Chisana-ha did not want to change the caste she was born into. It was only the dance she wanted to experience. How difficult would it be to leave this lower caste system to become a dancing queen? She did not know. “Far too difficult. Impossible,” said Tei-ha. “You will have to remain here, as-is, with the rest of us.”
Chisana-ha hung her head low and refused to look at others in the eye.
Spring came and went. She saw that birds overhead had more freedom. They were considered of a higher caste.
“You must drink. This summer heat will scorch you alive,” said Tei-ha.
When dehydration prevailed, her crepe-thin body fell and hit the ground. The lack of water, the hard hit, and the sun beating down sent a strange euphoria through her limbs. Before she was able to enjoy this new sensation, a gang of teenagers on skateboards began to pass.
“This is how the skateboard move is done,” said one kid and kicked her as he passed. All his friends cheered and laughed.
It wasn’t until evening that she had enough strength to move. She allowed the wind do the majority of the work. It pushed her this way and that way. And she noticed, the more she let go of all Tei-ha’s comments, the lighter she felt.
She began somersaulting through the streets and improvised pirouettes with anyone passing by. She never felt so free. She felt like a dancing queen. Some brushed her off, others pretended not to see her at all.
For the first time, she touched the soil that gave her life and decided to lie down on a soft lawn of a stranger’s home. She fell asleep staring at the stars. As daylight approached, her back soaked up the morning dew around her. She let ants crawl on her and passing dogs sniff her. She giggled from being so close to nature. Those of the higher branches of life looked down on her. Some shook their heads that she had wasted her youth. They figured she had gone mad.
The caretaker of the lawn approached and batted her with his broom, pushing her out into the street, as if she were useless garbage.
She spent the new day alone in a corner, until a mighty wind shook her skin and forced her out. The wind, she decided, would be both her chariot and charioteer.
“Take me wherever,” she commanded.
A few nights later, Tie-ha was still in her same old spot, reminding others of lower-level-of-life-protocols. Then, she was sure her eyes were fooling her, because she saw Chisana-ha. She stretched her neck to see if it truly was her. And indeed, it was Chisana-ha. She was moving, glowing, under the moonlight. She had done it: she was experiencing the dance of life while staying true to exactly who and what she was, a little leaf.
Tei-ha could not look away. She was mesmerized. As she, too, was just a low leaf, living her life on the branch of a Japanese Maple tree.
Chisana-ha was right, there was beauty in cobwebs that gently trap, hold, and sway a wind-blown leaf.