I’m standing in my backyard while a torrent of orange and yellow leaves drift down all around me and pile up at my feet. The scene is reminiscent of that moment at the end of a political convention when the nominee accepts their party’s nomination and a gusher of confetti and balloons is loosed from the hall’s rafters while the crowd goes nuts and Fleetwood Mac sings “Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow.” Only no one’s cheering and I’m not pretending to point at people in the crowd and act surprised to see them. Actually, I do point at a squirrel and give him a thumbs up.
A wise man named Tomberg once described an acorn as a “constructive atomic bomb.” The oak itself is “the result of the slow explosion or the blossoming out of this ‘bomb.’” If that’s the case, then I’m standing beneath a mushroom cloud. This particular explosion came not from an acorn, but one of those helicopter seedlings that flew its mission generations ago, and detonated in this spot where the “slow explosion” of this mighty maple tree has been ongoing for, most likely, in excess of a century.
The fallout continues. Orange and yellow splotches combine with red from another explosion nearby to overwhelm the gray sky. These are creative explosions. Through the years, the maple I’m standing beneath has been home to quite a number of squirrels and a few woodpeckers. It’s like a multi-family high rise. Earlier this year, I discovered dozens of small bundles of twigs and leaves scattered about beneath the tree. These were not dead parts that had broken away and fallen to the ground. Some creature, undoubtedly engaged in a major renovation project, had cut away these leafy twigs to make room high in the canopy for its expanding living space.
Despite the hours of work ahead of me, for which at this moment Fleetwood Mac should be erupting in song and my family should be rhythmically clapping along in appreciation, it’s hard not to become disoriented in the brilliant twisting colors and the gentle murmuring of the wind. When the moment pulls you away from yourself and surrounds you with its grace and beauty, everything’s ecstatic. In this instant, I am a slow, silent explosion, imperceptibly unfolding.
And then the mournful wail of a distant leaf blower breaks in and obliterates the moment. Cursed leaf blower! Then it’s just me, my rake, my tarp and quite a mess to clean up.