Throughout the temperate climates there are trees that hold on to their spring and summer greens throughout the later, demanding months. They wear them as stubbornly and foolishly as one who wears a favorite coat in July or refuses to take an umbrella into the rain. They live their evergreen lives eternally, proud of their verdant blood and the succulent life that will not blink in the face of the shifting seasons.
But there are some trees that pay attention: to the altering temperatures, to the shadows that lengthen before noon, to the greedy night – Nature’s subtle hints that it is time to change. Their leaves become melting prisms, with colors that undulate and flow: creating microcosms of sunsets within a dying morphology. Garnet, ginger, bronze and scarlet, they are as pure and fluid as the stained colors in cathedral glass. The tints of Chartres, Notre Dame, Cologne are reflected in their autumnal DNA. The air is bright with their departure; the earth and streets are crisp with the trees’ brittle sacrifices.
In the mid-17th century, Spanish naturalists stumbling through the Americas took note of a pretty tree with leafs shaped like clipped stars and a clear, perfumed gum that looked like liquid amber.
350 years later their happy discovery is alive still, in backyards and cities, celebrating the cyclical weather, the migratory temperatures.
Liquidambar styraciflua is known for its fluid colors and fragrant liquor. It bleeds a clear or tinted resin reminiscent of the musky scent of burning amber. This aromatic hemorrhage is what gives the tree its name.
The Amber’s round seed pods create sheet-music when superimposed against telephone lines. Its roots are discreet. Sidewalks do not buckle or erupt into mountain ranges that wait for pedestrians to stumble over, like unsuspecting gods.
It is used for decoration; above succulents and firs, cedar, oak and spruce its colors wink with whimsical flamboyance. During the summer its canopy is lush with green youth. By year’s end breezes rustle the crisp leaves like a mother running her fingers through her child’s tousled hair.
It drinks from the subterranean rivers that tumble through the earth in a web of fertile tributaries. The green elixir permeates the body of the tree, creating an ornament that glories in the year and celebrates the four changing quarters. It is a reminder of the comfort of change; the knowledge that beauty does not end but renews itself in perpetual rebirths: that it lasts forever.