Friday, October 15, 2010

A Japanese Maple

A good while back, Steve and I were walking through Baker Nursery in Fargo, North Dakota, looking at plants. Near a door was a beautiful and delicate-looking tree in a large concrete pot. The leaves were an ethereal purple-red, and almost translucent. "Japanese Maple," the tag said. "$150."

An employee walked by, and we stopped him to ask about the tree.

"Do these grow here?" I asked.

"Oh, no," the employee said. "They'll never survive the winter."

"Then why are you selling it?"

"Well, we have some people who buy them kind of like an annual. They plant one, it eventually dies, then they just come replace it the next year," he said.


I was thinking about that tree again this week. A person's first reaction might be: "What kind of fool do you have to be to plant a $150 tree, knowing full well it's going to die in a few months?" I must not be in a tax bracket where this kind of logic makes sense.

But imagine if instead of planting a doomed tree, the person had planted a crabapple tree, or a lilac, or an oak, all of which love the northern climate. Eventually, the shade and beauty of that tree would be enjoyed by an entire neighborhood. Birds could nest there. Flowers could be gathered. The fall flame of leaves would signal the beginning of winter, and the buds...the promise of spring.

How often we try to be who we're not. Are you flowering in the constraints you've given yourself? Be yourself! Wear jeans and tennies. Eat a big old cookie for lunch. Spend the entire weekend reading. Adopt a few dogs. Throw your hair in a ponytail. Laugh at lowbrow jokes. Go to a few garage sales.

There is definitely a time for doing the things you SHOULD do. But for sure make time to do things you WANT to do and things you're naturally good at. (End your sentences with prepositions!) Who cares? Be interesting, because life is short like summer.

Oh, you've got a little food on your face...right there. No, there. Never mind!


sewprimitive karen said...

Wow, you used to live in Fargo and now you live in Mississippi? That's quite a switch! Can you imagine not planting a lilac if you could. Your post is really making me think about the things (job that is) we force ourselves to do sometimes that just aren't a good fit.

Kathy said...

I have a Japanese Maple in my backyard. My Mom bought it for me 10 years ago. I'm in NY and it grows fine here. But then I also have lilacs and a crabapple and a number of other trees. :) I would never plant something that wouldn't survive a NY winter.

And I agree with the rest of your post. Be yourself. :)

Nicole said...

Perhaps it's a different varietal, but I can tell you that there's a Japanese red maple in the garden at Gropius House, up here in eastern Massachusetts, and it definitely comes back every year. Mrs. Gropius planted the Japanese garden in the 1950s, we believe, and it may be the original. So you might find it worth a shot--they sure are pretty!

DonnaTN said...

A great post and certainly somethings to think about. I love that last photo of the baby! Anyone we know?

marylin & poussy said...

oh i love baby !
A young hello to you in passing,
A good day
Best regards marylin

Sherry :o) said...

Wow - we have Japanese Maples here in Michigan...I didn't realize that they wouldn't last long; and I kjnow they are expensive!

Boy, funny you ended your sentence with a preposition - one of my English quirks! But I certainly get, and like, what you're saying. Enjoy your day!