The ancient and venerable sage Tsiplo bowed his head to bring him closer to what he held delicately in his hand: a small three-symmetry leaf. Vibrant living green, rough rounded edges, a fine fur on the underside, a texture much like skin on the surface, the whole thing spanning little more than the width of his finger, the stalk held between his fore finger and middle finger, curling down to branches leading to identical leaves, down to the rich soil, rooted into and off the land.
His eyesight was on the decline, and he had to whisper a few words to bring the leaf into tight focus. It was not that he was overlaying the plant with his own projection, which was only so good as to recall his mind’s eye version of the plant — hardly useful if his intention was to see the condition of this particular leaf and plant right here and now. He had worked out a way of transposing his sensory input by imagining an image further away, and then bringing his mind-focus to his secondary attention. He wasn’t correctly looking at the leaf itself, but was observing it obliquely. Not ideal, but the method allowed him to sense this leaf right here and now in his hands, albiet with a slight diminishing of chroma.
Colour was so important, however. Compensating for the deterioration that accompanied age was a pain, literally. Yes, many spiritual gifts as a result, patience, temperance, perseverance, pruning of priorities, and enough failures to flesh out a world of what could be, granting an open-mindedness of which he was particularly appreciative. Loosely held convictions, a plasticity of mind that was almost entirely unbounded, freed from the articulated restrictions of physical limits and laws. A union, let’s say, of mind. Such that this little leaf he held in his hands, was part of this little plant, held within the soil, which also held these other herbed plants, roots knitting with each others, the fungus and molds, the roots of the nearby oak whose shadow he was under. Rightly speaking, it was he who was held. Rightly speaking, there was a complicity in the flowers and bees, and this garden and himself, the innumerable invisible workings of cells — yes he knew about cells — around him, of which he was composed, and more importantly the network of processes enabling the flows of water, sugars, light, and life energies. An undifferentiated union, but for the thinnest of distinctions for which he retained a sense of self, seldom used. Yes, he would get lost on numerous occasions, forgetting to feed himself, sleep, and urination and defecation sometimes came as a surprise to him. A side-effect he was not overly concerned about for he lived mostly outdoors, secluded in the forest. As nothing compared to the strict exercises he had imposed upon himself in his youth, but that’s of another time and place, to draw attention for another purpose.
This leaf in his hands, delicate, precise, exact in its own way. The solid thing he could hold, the leaf. It was like a little hand, a hand of this child, or a baby’s. And as everyone knows, holding a baby’s hand is not a passive thing even when asleep, it tightens and relaxes, and when awake perpetually active. Alive with something more than the solidity of it. Alive with curiosity, exploration, within itself as a hand touching and feeling, but as part of something larger, with its higher level volition and intention. Of course, this plant didn’t have the same sentience as a human, not even a baby’s, but a mind-enclosed by its physical boundaries existed, of a form. With that thin boundary of mind, so it colluded more closely with the bees for pollination, its growth in the soil right here for its uptake of sunlight from above and water from below, along side other such thinly-minded creatures. Like individual fingers of a hand, perhaps, or cells in skin?
Whatever the physical boundaries of this leaf, of this plant, there was something of overlapping unities, the mathematics of which the old man had come to terms with long ago. And drawing attention to this small thing, here, in his mind’s eye, was not for the benefit of the leaf, nor the plant. Not directly, as such. But, as thinly minded as this leaf and plant were, for the care of its own continued growth, so there was an overlapping of mind with the old man, again with the care of its own continued growth. An expansion of mind, perhaps, though the old man was duly wary of that.
He let go the plant, which sprung out of his hand to regain its natural upright nature, leaf to the sky, gently lifted by the wind, tickled sometimes. A joyful plant. Certainly sweet tasting, a faint citrus flavour to it. Good for nails, hair and joints. But it was not as… vibrant… as it was. There was definitely a malaise to the growth of the plants, not just this one. The more delicate ones, perhaps the most sensitive, were showing it more. Smaller, weaker, one generation following the next. For years now. And this one, at this time of year, should have been a few fingers longer, with more branches sprouting from the bulb. Not this year. It was getting close to a threshold, where it would become visible in the richer cultivated grasses. Lower crop yields perhaps as soon as next year. What he had known was coming for years, was now immanent. Not a shadow, but a sickness. A fever was soon to break, a fever they may not survive.
He sighed as he raised himself, looked up at the sky, a thin dusting of white clouds, distant, so distant. It was going to take a while, beyond the years he knew he had left in him. The leaves on the oak tree would dry, turn brown, fall, and not grow again.
Of course, they would come. Perhaps only a few, perhaps many. He would be ready for them. Not today. Not here and now. He was too… demanding… Not him, per se. The task before us was too demanding. He’d have to break it to them a little at a time. Set them intermediary tasks which they could comprehend, quests which would prove their conviction while equip them with the skills to… not achieve, but at least grow together. It was the last journey he might take, and despite his passing, there may be others to see it through, to arrive at the destination he could not see, not with all the garsu crystal at his disposal, not even the heartstone. The thought passed as quickly as it came.
It was not quantity, that was for sure. Quality. A quality of mind, thin-minded like the leaf, like the hand of a baby. The social equivalent of this network of roots beneath his feet, whatever the delights were above ground. At this very moment, or correctly speaking, preceding it. Following the follower…
So the old and venerable sage Tsiplo smiled to himself, for we are each but leaves, and there was some comfort in knowing this.