Of a maple sapling

In some ways, I will miss this planet (when my spaceship comes, and it is time to go). Not so much the people as the places and things.

(I’m assuming the people also move along.)

There was a moment, early this morning, when this thought came back to me, in a narrow urban laneway (among the garages, behind the houses) when the rising sun, shining briefly under overcast, caught an especially apt arrangement of leaves on a maple sapling, struggling for city space. The floral painting that could represent it is well beyond my powers; the effect was of something woven, like damask. The leaves themselves looked the part of young, shall we say callow, in vegetable nature’s terms. Yet something in the quality of morning light made them seem, suddenly, very ancient.

Now, maples (and I intend no patriotic jingo today) have been around, give or take, seventy million years, judging from the earliest known Acer fossil, found near here in eastern North America. But they truly flourished in the Miocene, perhaps fifty million years later, if we judge by volume. Or if we judge by eye, they are still going strong, in more than a hundred species.

You know me, I tend to be sceptical of evolutionist claims. I do not doubt the fossils look like maples, in bark and leaf, and some as if they fell yesterday, into strata aeons down. But the Design Angels love to play tricks, and will often make things look the same that are genetically very far apart. I join them in giggling at the theoreticians.

This little guy was an Acer saccharum, I think — a sugar maple. Though this being the city, and the pollution-loving Norways moving in, I’m sure I’ll be told I was dreaming. They (both sugars and Norways) have so much to say for themselves, in their richly understated way, especially when turned red in the autumn; but also in the spring when they subtly flower; or in the north woods, where the sugars meet with the birch to dance, dance, dance in the breeze. And their syrup is of course to die for, developed in His pantries by God’s most accomplished Culinary Angels to slide over melting butter on those divine buckwheat hotcakes.

But this is all beside the quality of the light, reflected from those shy young unfurléd leaves this morning, revealed to Lord Sol from the shade.

We cannot provide a “meaning” for such moments, that string together as beads through our lives. So many other “incidents” like that come back vividly to haunt us: time somehow worming out of time.

The young sugar maple himself offered no comment — none, at least, that I could hear — except to capture in a gesture the is-ness, the remarkable is-ness, of things down here.