Time rewound, for a moment

After several cloudy, mizzly days, I woke up this morning to the stiff north breeze that carries the promise of blue skies all day long. Dazzling! I wasn’t the only one out luxuriating in it; almost as soon as I got to the path, an eagle soared overhead. Shortly thereafter, a gull circled repeatedly, apparently enjoying an invisible wave of cold Canadian air cresting over the bluff.

Gull soaring in north wind

Although there are still autumn colors in the woods, most of the leaves have undergone abscission and are lying quietly on the forest floor, beginning the slow journey into compost.

Autumn path near end of season

Always habitually scanning (consciously or not) for signs of birds, my attention was caught by a flicker of movement to my right, a flash of yellow soaring upward. A (very) late warbler? No.

It was like seeing time spin backward. A fallen Bigleaf Maple leaf had been retrieved by the wind and was spinning up the bluff, dancing upward in ecstasy through the mostly-bare branches, as if retracing its journey to its tree of origin.

I smiled as I watched it twirl through the tangled twigs, circle round a sturdy fat trunk, fly across my path. And then I laughed out loud when it actually managed to land upright on the thin branch of a young tree—it had made it back home!

Bigleaf Maple leaf, back in a tree for one brief shining moment

Did it feel, perhaps, that it had been granted a second chance, a new lease on life, a last chance before death to once again breathe in sweet carbon dioxide, feel the freshness of water flowing in its stem and the strength of sap surging out to its tree?

Maybe to fix a mistake or two: an occasional lack of generosity in sap supply, a desire to outshine its neighbor leaves with a particularly brilliant yellow?

Or possibly just to revisit the old home place, remember what it was like to be part of a tree, view again the vistas up and down, recall the soft vibration of a pair of life-mated crows grooming on your branch in spring.

Crows grooming on Bigleaf Maple, leaves in background

The leaf was only allowed to enjoy its time travel home for a brief moment (during which I was miraculously able to snap its portrait above) before the next gust returned it to the forest floor. But I wanted it to have just a little more time, so I picked it up and nestled it into a nearby trunk, a finger of bark holding it close, where it can imagine for a few more moments that it’s still part of a living tree.

Bigleaf Maple leaf held by a finger of Douglas Fir bark

We’re due for big storms this weekend, so the leaf will be back down in the duff soon enough. If you pass it while you’re walking through the park, please feel free to greet a time-traveler who was given one last chance.

What would you do with one last time-travel gift?

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5 responses to “Time rewound, for a moment

  1. Trileigh,
    I love the image of the Bigleaf Maple leaf making time spin backwards, returning to where it came from. You describe this so beautifully! Thanks for this bit of fall inspiration 🙂

  2. Thanks, Katie! By the way, I thought of you the other day when I came across this blog by a young family friend who’s also interested in urban design and who mentions Portland as the “gold standard”: “Urbanism by Roxy” (http://urbanismbyroxy.blogspot.com/2012/10/bike-path-on-ballard-bridge.html). The two of you have a lot of common interests and I thought you might be interested in trading thoughts at some point. I’ll let her know about your blog too!

  3. I just love that there are others who take the time to observe such things, take delight in them and then share them! Thank you! I’ve been noticing how the trees swap leaves this time of year. The Alder’s are trying on the Maple leaves and the Maples are trying on the Alder leaves, while the evergreens gather up any and all decorating their dark green branches with flashes of color… Autumn brings fun for everyone in the forest!

  4. I had the priveledge of watching a fledgling crow grow up outside of my office. I named him Merple. Merple’s parents were always close at hand, watching his every move. One day I saw them up in the tree seemingly canoodling. It was very sweet. I didn’t know that crows were life-mates! That explains a lot. I hope the family comes back in the spring to share more babes with me.

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