Friday, October 24, 2008

Increasing Autumn Tree Perfection Productivity

I have written about this tree, in an essay about a near-fatal accident and the year-long recovery period that followed. The essay, "Beautiful River, Arms of God," the first I had ever written, was published a few years ago in Camas, a literary journal put out by the University of Montana. The essay uses the ephemeral streams of the desert, with which I grew up, as metaphor for the ephemeral nature of life itself. I don't know if the excerpt makes sense out of context, but here it is anyway:

"I think that life must be like an ephemeral stream. And so I wait for the dream to pass and the waters to return. Sometimes these days I have a flashback that goes like this: I suddenly see the car turn sideways to the highway. I see my arm go up to protect my face as the car starts to tip and roll. I see the ground rising to meet the window. And in that instant a wave of peace washes over me. By way of explanation, I can only say that in that moment I see the ground rising up, I am reminded of beauty.

Recently, only weeks after the accident, I saw a tree in my neighborhood with such a dazzle of autumn leaves I felt stunned, unable to breathe. The leaves were at their peak and just starting to deck the streets with slips of amber and lemon yellow. It occurred to me that the tree probably looked that poignantly perfect exactly one day each year and that, if I was lucky, I had seen (perhaps) that one perfect day twice out of the last ten years. If I project seeing that tree in that state twice each decade, and if I assume, now that I have cheated Death, that I will live another four decades before I die, I might see such perfection exactly eight more times. It now seems to me that a total of eleven days of perfection out of a lifetime of trees is simply not enough, and therefore I must make a concentrated effort to increase my autumn tree perfection productivity.

That I am here at all to see the tree seems to me a notion that fairly shatters the air around me."


"This is the day. There is no other. It turns out that the meaning of life is a terrible knowledge that sharpens the line of the tree and the bite of the wind. It deepens the sky and brings the moon closer. It shows, with brilliant clarity, the perfect line to take around the turn in the stream. It turns out, finally, that it is life itself that cradles us with grace and delivers us into peace."

The tree is probably still a couple of days from its peak, but we had our first freeze last night and I'm going out of town for the weekend to meet up with my sisters and check on the old folks. I thought I'd better get out there and take a picture in case I missed it.

On my travels today, I will pass by the site of the accident and, as always, I'll give a short prayer of thanks to that terrible day for what it taught me about beauty and life in the moment.

Enjoy today.


  1. Wow! Glad you survived this terrible event and are here to write and share about it. I always wonder - if I cheated death, would I live my life differently? I know some do, and others just go back to living their same old lives, but maybe with a deeper understanding of what about them is valuable. Thanks for this post, it's reminding me to enjoy life more as long as I have it!

  2. Hi Karen--

    There's no doubt that it changed my life--for that I am grateful

    Wouldn't want to live through it again, but I'm grateful, even so.


  3. I'm so glad I found your blog. What beautiful writing. To write that I'm glad the accident didn't take you from this Earth sounds trite. I am thrilled you survived your accident. My mother had one 20 years ago in a car and nearly died.

    I had a similar epiphany this year that, if luck, I only have 30 more seasons of gardening. Thirty more springs, thirty more summers, thirty more falls. Let's not talk about the winters. I'm not as excited about them.

    Welcome to Blotanical.~~Dee

  4. A very dramtic story, and beautifully recaptured. I was once hit by a car (incidentally as I was having a rest from a long cykling trip), next to a field of rye. That eternity of yellow, suddenly like a soft wall, swaying, losing its footing. But indeed it was me, tumbling like a leaf in the wind. Until I hit the bonnet of the car. I escaped with a broken arm...

  5. My goodness, Camellia! I am glad that you survived that. I hope there were no serious injuries.

    And Dee, I know what you mean about that moment of realization we have when we begin to tally up things in "seasons left"...

  6. This is so good. I can see why it won an award. I would like to feature it on my blog and thank you. It was the inspiration for my election day post. It made me wonder how many more days I had to vote. Did I want someone else making that decision for me. Thank you. Is you accident story on your blog?


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