Friday, June 5, 2009

When we first moved into our house, I had mixed feelings about the tree out front. (I had mixed feelings about the periwinkle paint in the guest bedroom, too, but that was easy enough to change. I wasn't about to uproot a tree.) I loved the interesting twists of the tree's trunk and the perfect shade it provided for the yard, but I literally hated the leaves on it, since they were red first thing in the spring, when other trees' leaves were green. To me, our tree seem backward and it stuck out like a sore thumb. But, over the years, I've recorded how interesting this tree can be, how it changes, yet stays so beautiful through every season and I've grown to treasure it.

One expert told us our tree is a Japanese red maple and said it must be around seventy five years old, "a giant for its kind," since red maples grow so very slowly. I didn't know to believe him at first, but after he said that, I was deliberate to look for other red maples around town. I could find only what I thought had to be some type of popular red maple bush planted most everywhere else. I came to find out that the "bushes" were actually thriving red maple trees and they had not been planted recently, had been in the same spots for years already. So, fortunately for us, whoever built our house around fifty years ago must have known not to cut down our red maple, that it was a rarity, even back then.

If the color could be matched, the millions of tiny buds this tree drops in the spring would make the perfect shade of woman's lipstick; they're the deepest, most passionate mauve.


Later, in the summer, the bottoms of the leaves actually do try to turn green while the tops cling to a deep red, but somehow, in the right shade of light, those two colors will mix into a deep purple and blinding platinum. I am not even sure the most gifted artist on earth could make that happen with the same colors in paint. I know I haven't been able to capture the effect, even with my camera.

I look forward to fall. On clear, crisp days, the color can be so vivid it looks like the leaves are bursting into flames.


At least once a winter, during an ice storm, sickles will form on every single branch, every single little twig, no matter how small, bowing the branches with the weight of the ice and making it look like the crown of the tree is carved from precious crystal.


And, at other times in winter, when the snow is sticky, the flakes will pile on the branches and make the whole world look sort of like a black and white photograph.


And if the snow is gone and it has been cold enough long enough, the smooth bark takes on the appearance of skin and the branches coming up from the trunk look just like the armpits, bare shoulders and arms of a someone standing naked in the cold, with their hands stretch up to heaven. It is so graphic that I'll almost turn my head and blush; I can hardly believe how life-like it is.


And, even the green mold that shows up at the dull end of winter can look rich in beauty, like decoupage made from dollar bills.


There are few things in nature that have surprised me so much, that I have found as spectacular or have delighted in as often as our once thought to be "backwards" tree. No matter what the season, I never grow bored with its beauty and find myself celebrating its uniqueness.

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