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Sixteen years ago, we met: a mature sweet gum tree shading the front of my new bungalow with rich green foliage. It had survived the city’s removal of a large limb, its wound long healed.

Months passed, before spotting a solitary yellow leaf laying on the grass, its stem dormant, announcing the change. I looked up. Still largely green, occasional bi-colored leaves hung on the branches. The surprise was unfurling like swirls of colorful cloths shown at auction: scarlets, lime greens, buttery yellows, and thievery browns.

For several weeks, the show continued until its demise: mounds of faded shriveled leaves strewn around the yard, later raked and bagged for the city’s yard waste pick-up. Stripped from my natural beauty, I grieved. It would be a long wait for its return.

As years passed, the sweet gum tree continued prospering, with more bags of gum balls lined at the curb for the city’s pick-up.

Then, the disruption began: 2021’s violent rain storms wrenched two large branches from the trunk leaving large swaths of exposed wood. Its woundedness remained with us until three weeks ago, when another large limb crashed to the street, with nothing precipitating this loss. The sweet gum tree was ailing and the arborist’s response was to take it down. A red cord, now circling the trunk, will enable the crew to identify it.

The analogy between the ailing sweet gum tree all that lives, including ourselves, is obvious, but our spirits continue on.

We wait for the inevitable.

May Spring’s Joy Lighten Your Steps.

For weeks, breezes tossed about a smear of cherry-red limbs like red-vested monkeys with their handlers—The show was ongoing, day or evening. Neighbors gaped as they passed by with their dogs: It was the red maple tree atop the hill, outside my study window.

Autumn’s unusual dryness, though, caused the leaves to blanch and drop to the ground and shrivel, as if in slow motion—even powdering when scooped up. What had been stunning appeared vapid, washed out, vacant. All that remained were strapping branches, the hosts of this stunning display, still to undergo their final denuding.

Such diminishment bruises the psyche. Longing for what was escalates the absence of vibrant life with its full panoply of color. In its place, seasonal browns, grays, and blacks begin to shroud the outdoors. With the onset of winter’s bite nearing, more challenges emerge: chapped hands, cold feet, nipped cheeks, masks and layers of clothing, ice/snow storms, and so much more.

Such seasonal change twinges our grief, our humanness, our resiliency. Yet, color does return, on all levels…This remains our hope.

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