Have You Seen the Tree
My neighbor Mrs. Gargan first told me about it."Have you seen the tree?" she asked as I was sitting in the backyard enjoying the October twilight.
"The one down at the corner," she explained. "It's a beautiful tree-all kinds of colors.Cars are stopping to look. You ought to see it."
I told her I would, but I soon forgot about the tree. Three days later, I was jogging down the street, my mind swimming with petty worries, when a splash of bright orange caught my eye. For an instant, I thought someone's house had caught fire. Then I remembered the tree.
As I approached it, I slowed to a walk. There was nothing remarkable about the shape of the tree. a medium-sized maple. But Mrs. Gargan had been right about its colors.Like the messy whirl of an artist's palette, the tree blazed a bright crimson on its lower branches, burned with vivid yellows and oranges in its center. and simmered to deep red at its top. Through these fiery colors cascaded thin rivulets of pale-green leaves and blotches of deep-green leaves, as yet untouched by autumn.
Edging closer-like a pilgrim approaching a shrine-I noticed several bare branches near the top, their black twigs scratching the air like claws.The leaves they had shed lay like a scarlet carpet around the trunk.
With its varied nations of color, this tree seemed to become a globe, embracing in its broad branches all seasons and continents: the spring and summer of the Southern hemisphere in the light and dark greens, the autumn and winter of the Northern in the blazing yellows and bare branches.
As I marveled at this all-encompassing beauty, I thought of Ralph Waldo Emerson's comments about the stars. If the constellations appeared only once in a thousand years, he observed in Nature, imagine what an exciting event it would be. But because they're up there every night, we barely give them a look.
I felt the same way about the tree. Because its majesty will last only a week, it should be especially precious to us. And I had almost missed it.
Once when Emily Dickenson's father noticed a brilliant display of northern lights in the sky over Massachusetts, he tolled a church bell to alert townspeople. That's what I felt like doing about the tree. I wanted to become a Paul Revere of autumn, awakening the countryside to its wonder.
I didn't have a church bell or a horse, but as I walked home, I did ask each neighbor I passed the same simple but momentous question Mrs. Gargan had asked me: "Have you seen the tree?"