When we built our house about fifteen years ago, we planted two maples in the front yard. They have been quite happy there and we’ve had to trim them up every couple of years. In the spring they are one of the first to bud. Perhaps I only think so because of their location, but I notice their lacy fingers starting to unfurl from tight little bundles. It is always welcome as I’m usually done with winter after the first snow fall. By summer they have bloomed into giant green umbrellas, shading the front porch from a boiling southern sun. Our dog likes to lay beneath them, as though we pitched this canopy just for her. As the summer winds down, they prepare for a show. One is golden, the other scarlet. They are magnificent by October, as though every other tree in the surrounding forest is just an extra in the play they are the stars of. But by the time Thanksgiving rolls around, autumn winds and rains have ripped the fading foliage from their limbs and they become stark sculpture. The curtain has fallen, the show is over. Then suddenly, like an encore, they perform again as snow blankets their bare bones. And the cardinals see this as their stage. As though thanking me for the extra sunflower seeds that I always add to their wild bird mix in the feeder, they perch on the branches forming streaks of crested red dollops in the snowy branches. They face the house as if wanting me to notice their gift of decoration for the majestic maples and for me. How could I not see them there, live ornaments on nature’s Christmas trees. Maybe these wild birds think, “we have her so spoiled.” And they would be right.

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