December 14, 2007

Sweet Gum Trees

Today is my last day of substitute teaching at East Nicolaus High School, where most of my teaching has taken place. I do not expect to get called in next week, when the students will be taking their finals before winter break.

Outside the classroom is a row of sweet gum trees. I love sweet gum trees. (I wish I had brought my camera to take a picture of them today, but instead I had to use this image I found on the internet.) They are among the few trees in California that give brilliant fall colors. I grew up in Burbank on a street lined with sweet gum trees. In fact, I once gave a neighbor kid a bloody lip with one of the sticker balls those trees produce ... but that's another story. (It was an accident, I swear.)

Of the four trees outside my classroom, three have lost all their leaves; but the fourth has stubbornly held on to about half of its crimson-colored-foliage. It's as if this fourth tree is trying to make a statement: "You call this a winter? Bah! A little frost on the ground is nuthin'. Why, my grandpappy was from New England, a place where they know what a real winter is!" Or it could be that this tree is a literalist when it comes to the calendar: "The calendar says I still got one week left of autumn, so quit buggin' me about my leaves!" Or, perhaps, this one tree just isn't ready. The changing of the seasons brings with it a sort of death for trees, followed by a rebirth in the spring ... and don't we all face change and new beginnings with a bit of reluctance?

It's my last day of substitute teaching at East Nicolaus High School. In less than two weeks, we move -- to the very street lined with sweet gums where I grew up. Here, I've watched most of the leaves fall, and perhaps within two weeks, the ones that still remain will finally let go. There, I'll look forward to seeing the new growth that will come in the spring ... which, in southern California, usually occurs in mid-February.

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