The Little Red Leaf

Maggie Duan


This story is about self-acceptance, a red leaf, and a pair of comfortable, rustic brown boots that take Maggie for a walk during lockdown, helping her stay grounded and self-reflective.


When I’m having good days or bad days, my rustic brown, leather-lined, comfortable boots take me for a mindful walk. This pair of chelsea boots are feather light, perfect for the outdoors. 

I love going for a walk all year long, especially during my favourite season: autumn. The weather is not too hot, not too cold. Just right. Changing colours of leaves, a peaceful scene, a slow pace, and the most powerful and invisible reason: to let go. Leaves behind.

The leaves show me the beauty of the season as well as the power of nature. I remember walking in a forest, listening to the sound of the leaves rustling in the wind and falling. That sound calms my mind. It reminds me to listen to my heart and let go.

One day, I was walking in the community. I looked down at the leaves. There was a tiny dark red leaf surrounded by yellow and green leaves. It caught my eye. I picked it up and felt the texture—pitted, lined. At that moment, I realized that it’s okay to be different. I remembered that when I was younger, I used to admire all the tall girls. Models showing off their long legs and tall height. Over the years, I learned to change the way I view myself. Acceptance, letting go, discovering and recognizing the beauty of myself. We tend to forget to recognize the beauty of ourselves. I’m a petite person, but I’m a strong soul.  

In the past three years, everyone in the world has experienced challenges on a different level. My grandma passed away during China’s strict lockdown, and I struggled with depression in Toronto. I lost almost all my yoga classes in one day and had to move partially online, then restart. My boots just sat there for days, weeks. My depression came back.

I started to practise a minimalist lifestyle. An intentional choice to live with fewer possessions,  focusing on only the ones I needed. One day, when I was decluttering my bookshelf, I found a small red leaf in one of my old English textbooks. I couldn’t remember where I had picked it up from, but it gave me motivation to step out and restart.

In August, I began a new job as an early childhood educator (ECE) at a non-profit childcare while also rebuilding my small yoga business. When I go to work, I enjoy wearing my brown leather boots.

One day last fall, I was really stressed from work. I felt depressed again and doubted my capability. Should I continue working there? I looked outside my window. Beautiful leaves created a peaceful scene and brought a smile to my face. Then I took a deep breath in and breathed out. I wanted to feel the leaves. I wanted to touch the leaves. I wanted to smell them. I walked to the foyer and put my boots on. I still felt the heaviness from the boots as well as my heart. But I wanted to give it a try. 

The boots bring me motivation, comfort. I will let the boots take me to the life I want to live one day: teaching, reading, enjoying a small cup of fresh coffee with one cream or just a cup of lemon honey water, living in a quiet and peaceful neighbourhood with my family, travelling, and helping other people. 

The first day I landed in Canada, I was in my early twenties. If I could tell my younger self something, I would say, You will face tons of challenges. There are so many ways to move through life. It’s okay to feel lonely, sad, disappointed.  Life will start a new journey. It’s never too late to begin. You might fail, but please never give up. You might lose, but please stay positive. You might have to restart a new career, but that’s okay. All the skills you gained have value. And no matter how you feel, get up, dress up, and step out. Go for a walk.  

Maggie Duan is originally from Mainland China. She runs Yoga Time and Learn Chinese with Maggie Service. She is also a registered early childhood educator in Toronto. Maggie was a journalist in China and hopes to pursue her passion for journalism here in Canada. She loves yoga, minimalism, mindful walking, and learning languages.

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