Front yard

Once a year, usually in November, the Japanese maple in our front yard turns bright red. The leaves on this tree are reddish year-round, but once a year, J and I are reminded of the huge difference between merely “reddish” and truly “red.”

Maple and maple

Some years, it’s rainy or foggy when our Japanese maple ignites. But today, after days of drizzle, the sun showed up and the entire landscape gleamed. On bright November days, the sunlight doesn’t shine from any particular direction; instead, the air itself seems illuminated, as if the earth itself were a light bulb and each of us a glowing filament.

Bathroom view

This morning while I showered, there was a red glow on the bathroom wall from the maple outside, and when J and I walked to and from lunch, the streets and sidewalks glinted with the golden glow of Norway maples. Soon enough, these tree tapestries will be stripped bare, but for now, an afternoon when both the sun and the trees shine together is a red-letter day.

Japanese maple with smudge of snow

Earlier this week, I showed you our Japanese maple tree on a foggy morning. Today brought a smudge of wet snow that clung to leaves and lawn but quickly melted from streets and sidewalks. After the sun emerged, the weight of melting snow claimed much of the maple’s foliage, leaving a bright red carpet underfoot.

Japanese maple in sun

By the time I left for campus, most of the sludgy snow had melted from my car, and I used my windshield wipers to clear away away November’s triple-threat of rain, snow, and fallen leaves.

This is my Day Fourteen contribution to NaBloPoMo, or National Blog Posting Month, a commitment to post every day during the month of November: thirty days, thirty posts.

Japanese maple on foggy day

The Japanese maple in our front yard is currently at the peak of its autumn color…but whereas last year this tree caught fire on a brilliantly sunny day, this year, it turned red beneath a veil of November fog. Sometimes maples erupt in a flash of red brilliance, and other times they smolder in a smudge of subtle color.

This is my Day Twelve contribution to NaBloPoMo, or National Blog Posting Month, a commitment to post every day during the month of November: thirty days, thirty posts.

Furry and fiery

One week after the Japanese maple in our front yard lit up like a red torch, I shot this close-up of a Japanese maple at Boston College, its leaves burning orange rather than red. In autumn, it’s best to stay on the alert, as you never know when the trees around you will catch fire.

This is my contribution to today’s Photo Friday them, Fiery, as well as my Day 22 contribution to NaBloPoMo, or National Blog Posting Month, a commitment to post every day during the month of November: thirty days, thirty posts.

Japanese maple foliage

When I got home from teaching today, J was standing at the kitchen counter, working at his laptop. “The tree out front is on fire,” he said, and I immediately knew what he was referring to.

Arborvitae, oak, maple

In one corner of our front yard, we have a Japanese maple that is perfectly lovely all year round, its lacy green leaves veined with red. But every autumn—and seemingly overnight—this perfectly lovely tree erupts into brilliant blood-red foliage that seems to carry its own inner illumination, as if someone had flipped it on with a switch. Forget about walking the earth in search of Annie Dillard’s tree with the lights in it: all you need as proof of a benevolent Universe is one glimpse of a Japanese maple on fire.

Japanese maple

When the Japanese maple in our front yard is “on,” it seems to emit its own light, like a red lantern. Rationally I know the crimson glow that filters through the window and seeps between the blind-slats is sunlight diffused through countless red leaves, but part of me expects to see a power cord stretched from tree trunk to electrical outlet to power a tree as bright and radiant as a neon tube.

When I walk into my soothing green-tiled bathroom on Fire Days, I can see the maple-glow before I see the tree itself outside my window. As I sit here writing these pages in front-facing bedroom, the white walls are tinted with a blush of red, and the forest-green blinds seem entirely incapable of keeping red out, for it flames and trickles between every slat.

Japanese maple samaras

When I came home from teaching today, J was there in the kitchen to inform me the tree out front was on fire, a camera sitting on the counter beside him. Fire Day is a regular fixture of every autumn: we haven’t had an autumn yet where the Japanese maple in our front yard hasn’t brilliantly turned. But Fire Day is a fleeting festival: soon enough the leaves that are lit today will lose their electricity, their power fading until they crumple and blow away. If you want pictures of a tree on fire, you have to move fast before the brisk breeze quenches its light and extinguishes its flame for another year.

This is my Day 4 contribution to NaBloPoMo, or National Blog Posting Month, a commitment to post every day during the month of November: thirty days, thirty posts.

Japanese maple in morning light

In about a month, the trees in our neighborhood will glow as if turned on with a switch. In the meantime, otherwise ordinary Japanese maples look lovely when illuminated with morning light.

House sparrow in morning light

Everything looks heavenly when illuminated. This morning, the house sparrows glowed while the sun glinted off ripening berries and leaves that are just starting to turn. Who needs enlightenment when just plain light will do?

Today J and I walked to Boston College for an afternoon football game, and the weather was picture-perfect: brisk enough for a sweatshirt, with blue skies and plenty of sunshine. All along the way, we saw walkers, dog-walkers, parents with strollers, and clusters of lean, Lycra-clad cyclists enjoying the comfortable temperature and low humidity. It was a day that almost begged to be enjoyed: a happy medium between the sticky days of summer and the bone-aching cold of winter. It was, in other words, a perfectly golden, glowing day.

This is my belated contribution to yesterday’s Photo Friday theme, Glowing.

Japanese maple leaves & samara

To my eye, red wine always looks fuller and richer when served alongside white.

This is my quick contribution for today’s Photo Friday theme, Burgundy. Reddish-purple is actually one of my favorite colors, but I don’t have many photos of it. For today’s post, I dipped deep into my photo archives, finding this photo of a Japanese maple I blogged in November, 2007. Enjoy!