I look at trees every day as a birdwatcher, but I don’t really “see” the trees. Recently, a friend from Colorado has been e-mailing me of her encounters with various trees and this has prompted me to look at trees a bit closer. Our native trees have been beautiful this fall. Not just beautiful, but spectacular: the brilliant yellow of the cedar elms and the big tooth maples; the reds of the cypress and the Texas red oak; the intense scarlet of the aptly named flame leaf sumac.
I had intended for this month’s blog to be a celebration of central Texas trees showing the rest of the country that: “Yes, we do have seasons down here.” Driving down nearby streets, the colors would catch my eye and I would tell myself, “I will come back tomorrow and take photos of that tree.” I kept telling myself I was going to do this, but I kept putting it off. Then, a few days ago I noticed that the tree colors were less vibrant and more leaves were falling off the trees. I realized I was missing, may have already missed, my opportunity. I thought I had already learned my lesson years ago when I did a lot of nature photography: Take the photo now! “The sky will not look like this tomorrow.” “That bird may not be in this spot tomorrow.”
This is a pattern of mine throughout my life, to plan to do something and then not follow through and then the opportunity has passed, never to return. There is a feeling of shame associated with this habit of procrastination, and a feeling of sadness.
On the 13th of this month while surfing the internet, I learned of the death of author Gary Svee. He was someone I had intended to contact. I wanted to ask him about why he wrote what he did about an ancestor of mine. I had been given a phone number of someone who knew him and was so anxious about calling a stranger out of the blue that I kept putting this off. I put it off for a year and a half. Now it is too late.
I went to his online memorial page and left a note. On the page it said that people were being asked to donate money to plant a tree in his memory. So, I did that. There is some sort of meaningful connection between the tree leaves transitioning and people transitioning that I am trying to grasp as I write this. The book of fiction this man wrote was entitled Single Tree and painted a sympathetic portrait of part of my family tree, a great, great uncle. I wanted to thank him, whether or not my thanks would have been welcome by him. But, I didn’t do this. He will never know what his book meant to me. Maybe he wouldn’t have cared. I cried when I read that he had died even though I had never met the man. I think maybe I cried more in disappointment at myself.
So, I share with you here some of Austin’s color and my advice to take action. Colors don’t last. Lives don’t last.
*Obituary for Gary Svee can be found at:
(Tree photos by Betty McCreary)