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Five Stages of Leaf

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(Photo taken by Ethan Lamont)

(Photo taken by Ethan Lamont)

(Photo taken by Ethan Lamont)

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(Best read to Beethoven’s 5th Symphony)

The voice rung out in Autumn’s head: “Procrastination will make this a miserable experience.” This was the voice of Brett Fleming; it rung over and over again. The warm Carolinian summer had finally come to an end and the crisp cool fall had started showing its red, orange, and yellow colors. Leaves started falling. The crunch of leaves was being heard under the feet of the students. Each crunch reminded her of her impending downfall.

“How far are you on the project?” others asked. She always told them that she was almost done. She had been almost done for six weeks now. Everyone had beautifully bound books and perfectly presented portfolios; she had a boring brown binder.

It started in September of that year, and she had a month and a half to do it. She had the necessary time and then some. From yellow tulip poplar to the damnéd sweetgum. Her portfolio was barren, much like the majority of trees in the area. She was hysterical; her final project was due in a week. Fleming gave the examples, and they looked amazing; she had big plans for hers.

————<<|O|[<<<<<I>>>>>]|O|>>————

I wanted to do well, I heard stories of people getting on hundred and five’s last year. They all may have gotten their leaves from Clemson’s gardens or Winthrope’s forests, but I had something more than that. I had determination to do this. As time went on, I never felt like it was impossible. Today, I went to the forest out behind my neighborhood to look for leaves. I had 14 left; of course, I got the American sycamore and white oak, that’s easy. It was the sassafras, the red maples, and the Virginia pines.

Today was colder than usual. My hair was blowing in the wind and leaves were falling. This wasn’t good, but there were plenty of leaves. As I walked through the forest, I became painfully aware that it was fall. The leaves had crisp crunches beneath my feet that would be a constant reminder of where I was. I was in the woods, and I don’t just mean the physical forest. The once beautiful and blooming oaks had turn barren and broken. My time was running out. I am not done; I will conquer this.

————<<|O|[<<<<<I>>>>>]|O|>>————

Although her determination was initially strong and made her confident, it would not last. The first day yielded little more than a couple leaves. She had gained two more unique species, but it was futile. As her doom slowly approached, she drowned her imminent fate in her music, which was mostly Ed Sheeran and “classics” as she called them.

She put together the pages that she could, and continued to research her required leaves. She didn’t even know what her five other leaves would be, probably because she hadn’t collected them. That night she had a plan ready. She was prepared to do a five mile trek across the town, all in order to find the leaves she was missing.

————<<|O|[<<<<<I>>>>>]|O|>>————

I realized today that I’m out of shape. And for what? Leaves? This project is asinine. I could be using my time for much better things! I thought this class was about biology, not forestry. I knew something seemed off about Mr. Fleming; everyone said that he was cool and a good teacher. It seems more like those people were brainwashed into thinking that about him. I wasn’t having fun like he said I could. My family hated the thought of going out to pull leaves off of trees.

I collected more stupid leaves. They were not what I was looking for, but they were native to South Carolina, so I’ll use them. I had nine more leaves to go, and things were looking up. My mom said that there was a tropical depression was coming through, but I didn’t trust it. It never stormed in September. Never anything bad in the least happened, so I’m sure it’ll be fine. At this rate, I’ll be done with the stupid project by the day before it’s due.

————<<|O|[<<<<<I>>>>>]|O|>>————

The optimism was nice, but her ideas would not be so. Unfortunately, she would not finish by the day before it was due. She continued anyway, despite knowing that her choices would lead to eventual defeat and ridicule by her peers. “How could you not get a 100?!” they would shout. She could not endure this. The weight of this was too much, she would rather never go to school again. Her hopes were to at least finish it, then she would have physical proof that she turned something in. Those hopes, however, lie in the idea that she would be able to collect the remaining species.

————<<|O|[<<<<<I>>>>>]|O|>>————

I had an idea. All I need to do is find someone to buy leaves off of. I hate to do it, but it’s my best bet. I could buy the leaves off of them and I would be done with the project.

I found someone, and I’ll be talking to him later today.

“You want leaves?”

“Yes. Any of the leaves from the leaf project,” I replied

“What would I be getting?”

“Money?”

“And how would that help? I work almost every day after school.”

“Well I can’t do much else!”

At this point I was mad, tired, and looking for any way to get these leaves. At any point, when I offered anything new, it was almost shot down immediately.  I was practically begging. When he suggested something, I realized I was not going to be able to give him what he wanted.

On the way home, I tried to persuade my mother to bring me to a tree garden in downtown Greenville. She refused every time and sarcastically suggested that I just go back in time and fix my mistakes. At this point, I think it would be easier than convincing her. I did find four leaves on campus, but I’m behind on schedule. I need to collect five more.

————<<|O|[<<<<<I>>>>>]|O|>>————

Her attempts would have been well done if it were earlier, this was a common link between situations she would get herself into; although, this was the biggest instance of procrastination. The words rung in her head once again, this time with new words. The words were: “If only you had done this sooner,” and rung over and over again.

Her choices were hurting her chances of even passing the quarter. In her head, she thought she would have been fine, but in the back of her head, she knew she would not be. Her time was running out fast, and she knew it. It was Friday and she still had five leaves to go.

————<<|O|[<<<<<I>>>>>]|O|>>————

Today is Saturday. I have today and tomorrow to work on this project. I’ll be able to collect leaves all today, and instead of giving me sarcastic advice, my mom said she would be able to help me today. She said that my procrastination reminded her of a younger version of herself. I’m going to be able to do this, after all I just have to go outside.

It stormed.

————<<|O|[<<<<<I>>>>>]|O|>>————

She should have listened. This was now becoming apparent to her. She should have listened and started the project earlier. She should have listened when her mom said that there would be a storm. This was all becoming apparent. Most of all, it was apparent that her time was running out.

————<<|O|[<<<<<I>>>>>]|O|>>————

I’m not going to be able to do this. I went outside and it stormed. I can’t believe I didn’t know; my curtains blocked any sign of it being overcast. There are leaves everywhere and they’ve been down for too long to be preserved. I don’t know what to do anymore. It’s too late for everything. Fleming was right, procrastination has made this a miserable experience.

————<<|O|[<<<<<I>>>>>]|O|>>————

It was not the end for her. She realized quickly that what happened is not the end.

————<<|O|[<<<<<I>>>>>]|O|>>————

I realized after I turned it in that I deserve this experience. I decided to procrastinate and deserve a fifty six. Mr. Fleming won’t change his opinion on me in his classroom. Despite my lack of tree knowledge, I hope that I’ll be able to get past this.

————<<|O|[<<<<<I>>>>>]|O|>>————

And she did. She not only got past the first quarter, but did exceedingly well on some tests and the end of course exam. She passed the year with a good average, getting an 85 in the class overall. More importantly, she learned not to procrastinate on projects. Her standards for projects had risen and now I won’t procrastinate as much.

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Five Stages of Leaf