Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Mystery Tree

Woodman, spare that tree!
... cut not its earth-bound ties ... .
                                    --George Pope Morris

November is the best time of year
to see autumn color in southeastern Virginia.
Our growing season is long, so late October to November 
generally brings cooler temperatures and drier air
that help to bring out the color in leaves.
In the last couple of weeks, 
I've marveled at how beautiful the autumn color is this year.
It seems a cliche, but everywhere I look there is a magnificently colored tree
wearing the deepest yellow, the brightest orange, the most vibrant red.
Even the oak trees, which often just turn brown, now glow in russet tones:

But there is one tree or shrub behind our house
whose color is unparalleled as far as I'm concerned:

The soft blended orange-red-yellow color 
never fails to catch my attention.
Its beauty stirs my soul.
As George Pope Morris said:

My heart-strings round thee cling;
close as thy bark ...

I can't imagine not having it there, 
but we came close to removing it this spring.
The small wooded area on our lot
grows so thick and dense that after awhile, it encroaches on the house.
I'm not exaggerating when I say that if left untended,
it would consume our house.
So this spring my husband cleared some of the brush and lower limbs.
When it came to this tree, perfectly shaped like an umbrella,
standing alone between two oaks, he hesitated.
Should we keep it?  Should we let it go?
I said take it down; he said let's think about it.
We left it.
I'm glad.

But what is it?
We wrongly thought it was a Carolina spice bush, but it's not.
We examined the leaves, looked at field guides, searched the internet.
Our best guess is a persimmon.
But we're not sure because it's never set fruit.
So if anyone knows, please enlighten us.
Till then, our tree will remain a beautiful mystery.
And next spring:

Here shall the wild-bird sing
And still thy branches bend.

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