Along the south end of our property, where the nature trail begins, there is a little respite I call The Grotto. It’s a little crook off the trail, beneath the shade of a forty-five foot sugar maple, surrounded by Concord grape vines, vetch, hops and bridal veil vines. To the south, the Grotto is open to the treeline between our house and the next. A rivulet lazily drains the area, though it remains moist and swampy most of the year. In the summer, the evaporation of the rivulet cools the air, which settles and gathers in the Grotto, a natural air conditioner.
Within there is a little seat, a bench made of two lengths of chimney-liner. It is here that I’ll sit briefly and drink in the nature’s bounty all around, or in the winter, imagine the days of summer when the cool Grotto air will be a welcome relief at the end of a hot and humid day afield. The floor is presently covered with last year’s leaf-fall. Typically it would be mowed, once required by the growing season. This year, we’re watching to see how long this humus-enriching layer will take to decay. In the meantime, it makes a nifty carpet, with the crunchy sounds of fall.
When we bought the ranch 30 years ago, I remember looking at that little maple tree, located at the far edge of the property, an island in a field tilled for corn. It was probably not more than fifteen or twenty feet tall. Maybe aged as many years. “One day that will be a big majestic maple, like the aged ones along the road frontage.” I recall saying.
For the first ten or fifteen years I hardly noticed the growth. A long process that stretched out into my future, one of those “someday” things. From time to time, while mowing or walking the trail, I’d stop to admire the tree. Like the Johnny Goldsboro song, it was getting big.
Here it is, it’s “someday” now. The tree towers over the corner of the ranch, a spread of 30 or 40 feet, shading the cool Grotto and inundating it with autumn leaves in their many colors. With no less than five main trunks, it has grown into a beautiful and admirable specimen.
It’s fascinating and humbling to think of our maples. The ones along the road frontage are huge, 60-footers, with trunks so big it takes more than two people to stretch arms around them. One was brutally trimmed by the power company, but is otherwise healthy. Several more form the treeline, and I must imagine when Lowe’s were building this house, they selected a few saplings that were in the right place and said “These can stay.”.
I imagine the new home owners (in 1906), looking out those round-top windows and saying “That little maple sapling will be a fine specimen one day.”
The Lowe’s are long dead, and I now love and revere the trees they left for me. I look at the Grotto maple and realize that indeed today is my “someday”, and here this gorgeous tree stands just as I had imagined thirty years ago.
It’s a comforting thought, within the circle of life, that I may watch this tree grow and enjoy it, then leave it behind for others that follow.
Sort of a “hand across time” to the future, tied irrevocably to the past.
And those huge 125-year-olds out front?
I suspect they’ll be here long after me as well, to look after the next family that moves in, to provide shade, maple sap, autumn leaf piles.
And they will spy a little sapling…