From “Another Truth About Red Trees” in Primary Sources: Poems by Ann Staley:
Sweet fires, elegy to summer’s long goodbye,
you know them from the east side of the Alleghenies
Maple and Oak burnished by October’s flinty light.
They remind you of bronzed baby shoes, first crocus,
haunted Mars, blood count afterimage,
river water shimmering with late light —
unstoppable beauty, particular-and-everyday at once,
accidental signals, ballast for any doubt or regret you carry.
Red trees in the west now, Japanese maple sentinels, curbside,
that Big Leaf out along Decker Road nestled near conifer green,
and in the blurred periphery driving north past Ash Creek swale….
Today the trees signal autumn, its early, damp darkness,
wood-fire smoke in the neighborhood,
apples ripening in fruit-room baskets….
The painter set them down in acrylic;
the writer transforms them one more time.
From “Maple” in Lives of the Trees: An Uncommon History by Diana Wells:
“Many Japanese maples are red year-round, and almost all turn dazzling shades of scarlet in autumn. The Japanese celebrate their brilliant color with festivals, similar to those for spring blossoms. They love to tell a story about Sen-no-Rikyu, a famous sixteenth-century Japanese tea master, who had just finished sweeping the garden in preparation for a tea ceremony. It looked clean and soulless, so he flung two or three of the red maple leaves he had swept up onto the clear mossy ground.
“Not all maples turn red in autumn, but many do. The color comes from anthocyanin, produced as chlorphyll is withdrawn from the leaves and the tree shuts down for the winter. The sharp points of these blood-red leaves are probably the origin of the maple’s ancient Latin name, and our botanical name, acer, meaning ‘sharp’….
“Carl Peter Thunberg, a Dutch botanist stationed on the island of Deshima when the rest of Japan was closed to foreigners… brought the first Japanese maple west. This maple, Acer palmatum (‘like the palm of a hand’), has green leaves that turn scarlet in fall. In spite of imperial edicts, Thunberg was able to collect Japanese plants, partly by sifting through hay brought to feed the livestock on Deshima (and collecting the seeds in it) and partly by trading information with young Japanese botanists. In exchange for plants he taught them rudimentary Western medicine, and the Linnaean system of classification.”
This is the second of two posts featuring the last of my Japanese Maple photos from late autumn/early winter. The first post is More Winter Red: Japanese Maples (1 of 2).
Thanks for taking a look!