As I made my way to work on foot today, the crisp air biting at my bare hands, laden with a bag in each, I discovered so many sights to relish that I would have missed by motor. One that struck me as crazy was a fully leaved clematis vine on a mailbox with two wide open blooms of pale purple and several ready-to-burst flower buds. How they survived the 26-degree night I cannot imagine, but there they were in full glory as if Spring were already upon us. We haven’t even given up the year yet! That gave me an excuse to pause, unloading my burden in each hand and folding my hands into my jeans pockets. They were cold! As if I had stuck ice in my pockets to melt, but no water ensued. A few minutes at rest and the feeling back in my fingers, I took up my bags, straightened my back and continued my walk.
A Sweetgum tree (Liquidambar styraciflua) had the typical change of color that seems to happen one leaf at a time. It shows beautifully, like each individual leaf is at a different stage of fall color, so there will be a green with some red, a red with some orange, a yellow with some green and red, all scattered as if someone was using a brush to paint each one. And the shape of the leaves is so strong; stars, each one of differing size, as if each is a special ornament hung just for our pleasure. And if that is not enough to thrill you, there are the gumballs that are so Dr. Seusse! How fun to see them dangle and swing on the tree, though admittedly they hurt to walk on bare-footed. Their uses are many: Mulch in the garden, deterrent for rabbits and children both, ornaments to hang on a Christmas tree or in a clear bowl or jar with pinecones and berries to decorate your interior. I’ve seen them used in collages and other art, smaller ones as earrings, and they can be ground up and turned into the garden soil to improve soil texture. Besides, the Latin name is just FUN to say!