Me, Niggle and His Leaf

I kept the book on the table. Maybe I should check my messages before I start reading. That was my only intention when I unlocked my phone. But it was after two hours, multiple videos on YouTube and making sure everyone on Facebook was having a great day, that I was able to pick that book up. Why was it so difficult to start reading a book? It is my favourite pastime and I have always looked forward to it. I could not wait for my exams to get over and start with the new book. But it had been five days since my exam and I still had not started reading.

I didn’t want to ponder why. Because that thought would be the gateway to a lot of suppressed questions. They were safely stacked in a corner of my brain. Probably, if I ignore them longer, a few cobwebs will form over them and they may hopefully become less evident. Like how I used to believe as a child that if I closed my eyes, nobody would see me. Well, some children never grow up I guess.

“Have you written anything lately?”, a dear friend had asked me yesterday. “Nope. I was thinking of doing it after the exams.” Right. Exams. That had been my cover for a while. But it was blown away five days back, exposing me to face myself again. And now I had to figure out how to begin. I wanted to read, write, paint, make those phone calls, travel, watch that movie everyone is talking about, find a new job, give my blog a makeover..and the list is pretty long. But all that I managed to do was watch some old movies, sleep,talk to a few friends, sleep, eat and sleep. All these with a good amount of whatsapp and Facebook. Even my time on my knees has reduced considerably. All of this has left me feeling more empty than ever. I went about refusing to change till my network provider sent me a notification that my Internet data for the day was nearly over. Now, that is one warning to heed. And hence I put my phone away and picked up the book.

“Every Good Endeavour”, by Timothy Keller- this was the book I was to delve into. It was a farewell gift from my last place of work. I opened the fridge and grabbed a bar of chocolate. Sitting in the porch, with a beautiful weather outside, a wind blowing your hair as you read and gnaw at your favourite bar of chocolate…it was something I was looking forward to as I prepared for the exams. I tried to enjoy it. But my reading lagged way behind my nibbling. Soon, the sun was blazing, the wind had settled, the chocolate was over and I had finished only few pages.

And then I reached the part where the author refers to J.R.R.Tolkien’s “Leaf by Niggle.” I had never heard of that story. The little of my leftover Internet data was used to seek guidence from Google. And thus I read a beautiful story that would sow the seeds of this post.

Now the rest of my post will be with the assumption that Google has helped you also to discover Tolkien and his story on Niggle. If not, here is a gist of it. It is about Niggle, an artist who “can paint leaves better than trees.” As he was trying to complete a great picture of a tree he had in mind(plus other added elements), death pays him a visit. After his death, his canvas is broken off and all that remains is a leaf which finds its way to a museum. But in afterlife( I am guessing), Niggle gets to see the picture he had imagined come to life. He finds the tree completed unlike how he had left it before death. And he is able to complete the rest of his picture with a little help from his neighbour. In life, all he was able to accomplish was a leaf. But his vision of the bigger picture was to be reality. Even though he was able to contribute very little to it.

Timothy Keller helped me look at this story from another angle. His thoughts on it were intresting. Sometimes in life we may have big dreams- about changes we want to bring about, contributions to improve the world and things along those lines. And most often, we feel like we are not able to achieve any of it. We feel like we have put in so much of effort but in the end we have completed only a leaf and the whole tree remains. I remember reading these lines somewhere-“If you know that God has placed a vision in your heart, He will also give you the grace to accomplish it.” This phrase, though encouraging, had also placed a question in my heart. I have always felt burdened that I am not able to accomplish all that God may want of me. But the story of Niggle and his leaf gave me closure(Google tells me it did the same for Tolkien himself!). Maybe all that I am doing now will turn out to be a just a leaf. But it is alright. I just have to do my best with that leaf.The tree will be completed by the greater artist, the one who chisled the mountains and moulded the moon. So let us just try and do our best. Even if it is simply a  small piece of the bigger picture. Just another Leaf by Niggle.

abstract art artistic blur
Photo by Kaique Rocha on


Nothing but a recipient of Christ's grace. I am a young doctor and I use this space to find meaning in the bedlam of my thoughts. My blog might resonate with the screams of a young adult finding her place in life, the stench of hospital corridors, images of the many people who intrigue me and the lessons my Saviour Jesus teaches me.

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