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  • Writer's picture~rooks /|\


During my morning meditation and subsequent journaling, I could not escape a feeling of being adrift. A ship in the fog without sense or desire for direction, at the whim of the winds to travel an uncertain path. At first I was unsettled, as much of my work as a designer and teacher must operate in a territory of uncertainty, it is easy to drift off a clear course in order to come at things from new trajectories. The place of creating is a space with no certain outcomes, simultaneity and nothing, until there is something. It requires a great trust in both process and intuition, and the persistence to run the work through many iterations.

Then I remembered a recent rewatching of Firefly and Serenity. A quirky SciFi series and movie by Joss Whedon in the early Millennium. A sadly short lived collaged western space opera. A crew. A Ship. No Destination, but tomorrow and the free spirit of the winds. Aside from all the gratuitous cursing in Mandarin, two lines really stuck with me from the movie. Mal's "I aim to misbehave" and Wash's "I am a leaf on the wind, watch how I soar."

I am a leaf on the wind, watch how I soar!

Metaphors of contradictions, the subtly of dismay that fires through my brain at the images held within this phrase. A leaf on the wind, so many potential meanings, is it tossed, floating, gliding gentry, or ripped from its home in the branches. Does the leaf flutter down on invisible currents or fly of to adventures on unknown shores. The first half of the phrase generally brings feelings of serenity to my heart (aptly aligned with the name of the ship and title of the movie), but it is not until the addition of the second part that I feel my heart open and truly become serenity.

At any moment, we are here, we are now, adrift in the present on the cusp of the future unknowing and the past forgetting. There can be no direction or desire in the present moment. When we occupy the present moment with full awareness there is nothing but now and that is when we can really soar. To reach our mind out into those myriad possible futures and manifest any new moment, to let the vapors of the past vanish, unleashing our bonds to time and fate, so we may become infinite, unlimited, free. I am a leaf on the wind, watch me soar!

And I get to wondering, where did this come from, was is a beautiful stroke of writing genius, connecting all the layers of the series: characters, mission, and ship? Did they pull this sentiment from the archives of human thoughts and questions? I spent a bit of time searching the internet, and while I found some blog posts like this one from fans of the show extolling their connection to the phrase and adopting it as a mantra for every day challenges, I was surprised to find no significant historical reference. There is some possible connection to the sentiment of the Japanese Kamikaze pilots of WWII, as the term Kamikaze is roughly "wind spirit" or "divine wind" or "spirit of wind." I have to thank Mr. Whedon for his writing and Alan Tudyk for his eloquent delivery.

In my exploring I did discover a poorly referenced Quora post to a similar question (where did this line come from?) where the poster says it is an old WWII poem recited by Kamikaze pilots, but with just a bit more searching, the poem seems to originate circa 2010 by a writer named Calum. The author of the following poem does make reference to the ending line being inspired (lifted) from the Serenity / Firefly series. Quite a fun drift through culture, language, and self reflection.

Shackled Leaf

Forever shackled by these chains,

I wallow in their lies.

They tie me to my fears and hate,

And all that I despise.

I see my friends across the road,

But my shackles hold me back.

They have looks and wit, they say.

Everything you lack.

The birds and clouds glide in joy,

Dancing across the sky.

But my chains tie me to the ground.

Shackled tears I cry.

Another mountain lies before me,

A new challenge I must try.

Don’t fool yourself, you’ll never succeed.

My shackles tell no lie.

I stare into the lonely mirror.

Blinded to my perfection.

I see nothing but a broken soul.

Shackled to its reflection.

I hug my knees and cry for someone

Who understands my pain.

As expected; no reply,

But the rapping of the rain.

My only rest I find at night,

After the death of day.

And with cold and burning steel

I cut my life away.

This is all I’ll ever be worth.

Dig deeper, until I’m dead...

My shackles laugh. They have won.

My arm...its crying red.

But one bright day I realize,

It’s myself I’ve been trying to find.

These oppressive and evil shackles

Live only in my mind.

My shackles return, fighting back, 

Fearing what I now see.

Foolish things, they’ll never understand,

I will always be free.

Because I am the Sun,

Raining down my light. 

I am a myth,

A whisper in the night.

I am the sky,

Serenity’s haven.

I am a mountain,

The silent warden.

I am the earth,

Life’s verdant source.

I am the wind,

The unstoppable force.

I am the sea,

Caressing the shore.

I am the storm,

The legendary Roar!

These lying shackles,

Bind me no more!

I am a leaf on the wind!

Watch how I soar.

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