I've long had a thing for yellow maples. This love affair began with big maple which stood by the back gate of a house where I used to live. A beautifully shaped tree, about 35-feet tall with a rounded crown—dense limbed, and more spread out than those of a typical maple. Every October that maple decked out in the most intensely yellow-gold leaves of any tree I've ever seen.
A few days after it colored up, there'd be a solid carpet of those magnificent leaves on the ground, though the bulk of its bright leaf-treasure still remained up in the tree. I can't begin to tell you how much I looked forward to this precise autumn moment—how I longed for those maple leaves to turn yellow-gold and begin to fall.
More than simple desire or anticipation, it was a yearning, an ache which never really left my psyche, but simply lay dormant from winter through spring, stirring like a waking beast sometime in mid-summer when heat smothered the land and cicadas ratcheted incessantly. The trigger was likely some internal awareness that time was indeed on the move, that in spite of current appearances, a point now not too unthinkably distant down the road would be reached; the seasons would turn again…and it would then be autumn and time for the maple by the gate to turn yellow-gold.
From that instant of realization onward I could scarcely contain my impatience.
When the joyous day finally did arrive—when the gate-maple's leaves turned brilliant yellow-gold with a good scattering on the ground—that magical conjunction meant I could now participate in an event of singular, soul-cleansing magnificence.
I would make my way under the tree, quietly, reverently…and simply stand.
A yellow-gold carpet lay at my feet and covered the ground all about. A yellow-gold domed ceiling began just above my head and extended, layer-upon-layer, blotting out sky and sun. Moreover, many sweeping branches connected high and low with a yellow-gold curtain.
The effect was of being suspended in a yellow-gold world—bathed, immersed, drenched in this single vibrating color. Every dark granule was instantly swept from the deepest recesses of my heart. I was transported, filled with what I can only describe as a holy illumination…as if God had momentarily opened Heaven's door and allowed a rapturous light to stream forth.
Regardless of whether it was cloudy or sunny—morning, midday, or late-afternoon—the world beneath that maple was always glowing. A light which you could feel, which poured over and around and into your being…a light which felt alive.
How do you explain such a thing? To tell others of this is to expose yourself to certain ridicule. And yet it is true. Crazy as it sounds…true.
Since moving away from the house with that wonderful maple by the gate, I've been searching for another tree to take its place. We're talking a couple of decades. If I had the time, I'd try to plant and grow one here beside the river—except logic and the actuarial tables says that's not an option. So the best I can do is take to the woods and explore, amble along various forest trails each October and hope.
And sometimes I do come close to finding another yellow-gold tree that shines all the way into my heart. A maple that uplifts me whenever I stand beneath its October-clad branches. Trees along the trail where I made the photos for this post seemed promising. So did several other individual maples I admired and photographed recently. Close, but not quite imbued with that ability to transform me with their light.
Yet I'm not discouraged in my search. Some day I'll find my elusive maple. For I know with a faith founded on fact that such trees do indeed exist. I sincerely believe that somewhere out there, there's a yellow-gold maple, waiting…just for me.