Thursday, October 13, 2005

Arbole! Trees! Colors! Showy death!


Fall colors have arrived in DeKalb. The sugar maples display a bright red. I love that scientists can explain how leaves change color, but not why? The ostentatious dying show serves no detectable natural purpose. Until some scientist ruins all the fun, fall colors still reside in realm of the aesthetic, the poetic. I wouldn't want it any other way.

Fall is my favorite season, despite or maybe because of the decay. My allergies are gone, the bugs are all but dead. Fall is a time for rolling in raked leaves, apple cider, pumpkin carving, cool nights, cool days. Rubbing hands by the fire. Steaming coffee. Back to the hearth with winter's store put up. Yeah, no pastoral scenes for apartment-dwelling me, but I know not far away, out in the country, in some country, maybe not DeKalb county, but, shoot, somewhere, third world, first world, second, there's someone actually subsisting on an honest season's bounty.

I found a cool tree the other day and identified it as an American Elm. It's a rare find because the once-abundant giants are decimated by Dutch Elm Disease.

I once wrote a story about a Boy Scout project in Antigo, WI, to re-establish a new disease-resistant elm, The American Liberty Elm. The article consisted of driving out to the wastewater treatment plant on a cloudy day to talk to a troop of kids wearing garden gloves, dirty kneed as they planted neat rows of saplings on adjacent land. The kids were tough interviews. Sons of potato farmers. A stoic, self-effacing lot. Teenagers. Tough quotes.

But the American Elm holds a special place in my heart. The remnant survivors are reminders of a shadier, verdant past of shaded tree columns along brick-paved streets. Sorry, I'm a bit of an anachronism, pining (ha!) for a past I never knew.

A world with more trees is a better place. Call me a tree hugger. It's an apt description. I've got the sap to prove it.