catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 13, Num 12 :: 2014.06.13 — 2014.06.26


The vision of trees

Emerald, orange and yellow flashed at crisp sunlight, shading my windshield of dead bugs. I arched my neck to look past the filth. Leaves had never been those colors before. I thought I knew what color was, but this display was different. Never in the history of the world have trees given such delicious colors. On this day the trees had decided to become deeper, more majestic, merged together to make the most beautiful bouquet, each at perfect peak.

I knew why they’d done this. It was for me, in celebration and in mourning. They’d heard his news. He’d make it to his first birthday. That was almost certain. The worst was behind us. But his eyes may never take in an autumnal feast. They had called it one of the worst forms of retinopathy of prematurity. Fast progressing.  They showed me the pictures, thick veins twisting to and fro, pulling at the thin retinas, stuck beneath a protein cloud that prevented veins from growing into the sunlight. He may soon be blind.

So the trees chose that day, as I drove home from the hospital with this news, to give me their fruits — a gift and a sacrifice.

The wind blew hard in the weeks that came. I didn’t mind at first. It took away the stifling summer, with its long days and no answers. It threw aside the canopy of leaves, the curtain that hid the true frame of things, giving cool clarity.

The trees showed off their shape. Some grew straight and strong. Their roots were secure. Nearly each branch would gain another set of leaves to join in next year’s autumnal feast.

It was the crab apples that darkened my vision. They would pull at my eyes as I drove so that I could not look away. Gnarly, thick, with roots that yanked at the retina of the ground like the vessels in my son’s eyes, unable to reach further into the sky.  The branches on the bottom had died off, shaded by the new growth that would not grow high enough, would not let enough sunlight through.

I wanted his eyes to be maples, tall and thin, stable and continually reaching for the edge of their world. Maples could see. Apples were full of retinopathy of prematurity, and that made it impossible to stretch high enough.

Everywhere vessels called branches flashed to my retina images of his eyes. I wanted the canopy of colors back again. Why hadn’t I minded on the day when the leaf curtain left the sky? I wanted it back, to shield and clothe the tree frames, to help me forget blindness, darkness, to help me see light again. A tree is a tree, always. I tried to convince myself it didn’t matter its frame. Please, give me back light and color and beauty. Show me your leaves, not gnarly death. Leaves give hope.

I parked my car.  Time for footsteps, for movement forward even if this is not the road I’d have chosen. Push on, feet heavy, anticipating a long, dark winter. At that moment of cold reality, and without warning, the leaves beneath me gave way. With their final cry, they gave a gift.


Crunch — kick — crunch.

Sunlight hit my forehead, warming my face. Dark winter was not yet here.

I looked down again, with purpose, looking for the crunchiest leaves.

Crunch, crunch, crunch.

The oak trees might be brown and ugly, but they won every crunching competition. The feeling under my feet was satisfying, the heels on my shoes were best for crunching. I liked the small almond apple leaves for the kick, the way they gathered close and exploded into the air.

The texture of the world took shape. And the texture of the world was good.

The gift came from both the short and tall in the woods and on garden paths. The gift required no light, no color, yet it was still beautiful.

Without light, there is still beauty. In beauty, there is vision. My vision was made new.

I saw a child, healthy and four, crunching oak leaves in his fists, laughing and throwing them into the unreachable and unseeable sky, basking in warm sunlight, unaware that his eyes were like the crab apple tree that threw speckles of cool on his forehead.

He was going to live. And life would be good. I would make it so. I would pass to him the gifts of the trees.

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