Outside my windows is a maple tree. Well, OK, a collection of young maple trees, since there doesn't seem to be a main trunk to it anywhere. It, or, more properly, they grow out of the steep hillside and present to my view several hundred maple leaves that frequently toss in the breezes that stream up and down the canyon between my window and the hillside, probably as a means for the air over downtown to the north to adjust itself against the air in the park and garden area to the south.
Daily, I have had the pleasure of looking at the trees -- it's what I do while I brush my teeth. It's a very refreshing view. A study found that patients whose windows showed them trees recovered from surgery faster than patients whose windows showed them buildings. I can believe it. In the condo I moved here from, when I looked out my window, I looked into someone else's window, and I tended not to look out very much. I really like having the maples outside my window here.
Another benefit from my brief conversation with Bryan, the new gardener, is that he has told me the name of the type of maple tree I look at: big-leaf maple. Wikipedia says you can make maple syrup from big-leaf maples, though its flavor is inferior to that of New England's sugar maples, and a posting from Oregon State says there are lots of industrial uses of big-leaf maple wood. But the revelation for me is that my trees have really big leaves, some the size of dinner plates,each an exaggerated maple shape with finger-length indentations.
One would think that, looking daily at my trees as I have for the past five months, I would have noticed that their leaves are really big. I didn't. I noticed that they were dark green with a light-colored underside. I noticed that a few of the individual branches seem to have died -- leaves all shriveled and brown. (Bryan says it's probably because of the drought conditions we've had for the past few months, with the tree cutting sustenance to a few branches to save fluid for the other branches.) I admired the grace of the leaves' motion and the way, after a rain shower, some leaves stayed temporarily turned over so that they looked almost white against their compatriots. But it never occurred to me that my trees have really big leaves.
How is it possible that I never noticed how big the leaves are? Well, that's just how complex reality is. You can look and look, and there are always details or configurations or interrelationships that you just don't see that someone else sees immediately. Which is why we need to talk to one another, so that we can each have the delight of discovering something new in what we thought was completely familiar. Like honking big maple leaves..