Monday, November 29, 2010

A Constellation

Small sweet gums are some of the last trees to lose their leaves, growing in scruffy lines along the edges of the roads, short and weedy they are protected more from the cold so don't drop their leaves till late.  As I take my daily walk the juncos flash their white tail feathers as they dart in and out of the hedge row of young gums, blackberry briar and pines. The Latin name for sweet gum is liquidambar, how magical is that.  I think of syrup, of amber holding insects from ancient times frozen in its fossilized resin. 

The spectacular leaf colors can range from yellow to orange to red to an almost black purple.  Speckled or solid, glossy or flat.  Add to their starry shape the fact that the seed balls are also prickly and pointy and you'll undertstand my astronomical reference.  I learn from wikipedia that the seed pods, which I've always just called gum balls are also know as "space bugs", "monkey ball", "bommyknocker", "bir ball", "conkleberry", "cukoo-bir" or "sticky ball". 

We've finally had a seriously hard freeze with two nights in the upper 20's and so everything tender has at last shriveled and died.  Sadly that includes the camellias, what were lovely flowers last week have all gone brown as of today.  It is almost December after all.  In anticipation of the cold, I broke down on Saturday and picked a peck of bell peppers, but did not pickle them,  they are sitting in a closed brown paper bag in hopes they might ripen up since I don't care much for green bells, much preferring the ripe sweet reds.

And so we head now into the last days of autumn with the winter solstice just three weeks away, the days are seriously short, but happily sunny.

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