Today, I noticed–for the first time–a red-orange tinge on the leaves of my neighbor’s Snowball Hydrangea tree, its branches spilling over the back fence, just within reach of my garden shears.
I often notice, and have sometimes cut, the round, greenish “snowballs”, slowly whitening, delicate, but thick in flower, weighing down the ends of the branches. I have often seen the soft, bright green of the new leaves in their season, crowning the sharp edge of the fence, bringing much-needed shade to the yard.
The Autumn switch remained completely overlooked, somehow.
Leaves reddening like the juice of a blood orange–how did I miss it?
I cut some leaves from the lower branches and set them in small jars to brighten the kitchen.
They are a simple reminder of Autumn, and also of one of my boldest and most precious memories.
When I was young, sitting in our backyard tree swing, I once looked up over the roof to see a great mass of leaves in the sunlight, illuminated, glowing in a shade of yellow-gold I didn’t fully recognize, so impossibly bright I imagined at first that the tree might be on fire!
I realized it was our front yard tree, which had always been there, sturdy, tall, unremarkable, perhaps a little bit scruffy–even so, in that late afternoon light, the burning glow of it held me, motionless and weeping, unable to look away until the light shifted with the sunset, and all at once the fire was quenched…then the tree was simply a tree, as it had always been.
At no time in my life, before or since, have I been so stunned by color.
I did not catch another glimpse of it. The tree, a large one, had to be cut down some years later, its heavy trunk splitting apart, a danger to the house and passers-by. The fire of those golden leaves remains etched in my mind, as unforgettable as if I had seen the face of God.
Now I look at these “blood-orange” leaves, cut from my yard, and I wonder how they escaped my notice for four consecutive Autumns. I wonder what else I may have missed…