Friday, 8 November 2019

What did the leaf say to the tree?

I had just finished some jobs outside: collecting the morning's freshly laid eggs, replenishing the straw in the pig arks, checking the sow we think might be pregnant, feeding the ewes hopefully gestating next year's lambs, harvesting a cabbage for dinner. 

I sat on a seat to take a break, and for the moment. It was a mild, still morning and, absorbing the view, noticed the green shoots of the winter wheat in the farmer's field opposite just coming through the brown soil. A future harvest to look forward to, of hope and expectancy.

I also watched the leaves slowly falling from the branches of the towering poplar trees that line our boundary (where "yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang"). As there was no perceptible breeze, it seemed as if each leaf chose its own moment to fall.

Another thought. Having worked for some years in the mental health field I've perhaps known more than the usual number of people who have taken their own life. One person who came to mind was, in fact, another mental health professional whose sudden departure took everyone by surprise, including their own distraught family. Even among those who had been known to mental health services in the previous 12 months, only around one third of suicide attempts, when evaluated, are regarded as having been predictable; two-thirds are not. In any case, a completed suicide nearly always invokes a sense of shock among those who know (and indeed some who don't know) the individual concerned.

The feelings of hopelessness and helplessness that accompany serious depression; certainly. Or escape from the torment of psychosis; regrettably all too frequent. Occasionally a trigger event. But sometimes someone's suicide, on the face of it, is not always fathomable. Nevertheless, e
ven the very leaves of a tree are numbered. 

A Parting Leaf to the Tree

You did not notice my life crinkling at the edges,

The rich green slowly sapping away.
We once provided succour for each other, 
Until I felt there was no return.

I went unheeded amid the safety of your canopy

But now could hide no more.
An imperceptible barrier between us grew;
Was it for my protection or for you?

Still I clung fast even as I faded,

As my hold slowly degraded.
I wasn’t pushed; I dropped quietly away.
I felt my time had come.

©  Notes from a Suffolk Smallholding



  1. You never think that health professionals have mental health problems too. Lovely poem.

    1. Everyone has some susceptibility Dave. And thanks.

  2. Even in these "enlightened" days when it seems no subject is taboo, and the most unlikely topics come up in conversation at tea, there is still a massive stigma around mental health. And you are right, people's actions are not always predictable. My heart aches for families who have to cope with the suicide of a loved one.

    1. I agree Angela. Suicide is especially tough for families.

  3. Your poem is not cringeworthy as some people's poems can be. Not only are the words well-chosen, they emerge from your experience of dealing with people teetering on the edges of life. Thank you for sharing it and for guiding me to it.

  4. I found you via Yorkshire Pudding's blogpost today. Your poem is very moving. Our daughter has battled depression, anxiety, self-harm and more since she was 16. She is now 33. The worry is always in the back of my mind.