Saturday, November 8, 2014

Big-leaf Maple in November

Finally, at age 71, I'm watching leaves change in November.

I've seen autumn trees before, of course. I've admired autumn trees as washes of color in the background as I drove from hither to yon. I've shuffled my feet through fallen leaves along park paths. I even have a memory of the dry, crisp smell of leaves burning -- do people still burn leaves anywhere?

But until this year, I haven't actually watched leaves change as trees economize by casting them aside in preparation for winter. Having the big leaves of a big-leaf maple grove right outside my window is a real blessing. I can see each leaf individually splotch yellow until the green looks more like a blush than a base color. Then, surprisingly briefly, the leaf is bright yellow, even under Oregon's grey drizzly skies. And, finally, the yellow gives way to brown in a pattern that looks like disease, and, in the next breeze, it clicks off its branch, dancing for a while in the air, but ending up flat against the wet asphalt below or caught momentarily in last year's dry grey blackberry vines.

And each leaf goes by its own schedule. By now most have at least started to turn, but maybe a quarter of them are still as green as they were in July.

How is it possible I never took the time to admire this process before? And, if not for my big-leaf maple grove, I wouldn't have seen it this autumn either, and would never have known what I wasn't seeing.

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