Embers From the Fire
A weekly blog by Deacon Dan Wagnitz for the Quad-Parish Community
Ankle Deep Shade – 10/22/2021
When my wife and I purchased the five acres that we built our home on thirty years ago, there was only one tree, a mature cottonwood, on the property. That tree was all the way on the back fence line. So, we went about to planting trees even ahead of building our home. One of my favorites is known as an “autumn purple ash”. It was just a leafless, three-foot sapling when we mail-ordered it. I had some doubts about its survival but it immediately thrived and grew over a foot the first year.
It was shaping into a nice little tree by the end of the third year, so I went back to the supplier to order more of them, but in those three years the emerald ash borer became a recognized threat in Wisconsin and they no longer sell any kind of ash tree. I understand, but it is too bad as the tree now stands over thirty feet high and is perfectly round shaped. It now provides welcome shade for the hottest part of summer afternoons for our patio. We have a two-person glider positioned just right to enjoy the coolness the tree offers. It’s one of my favorite places to spend a summer afternoon with a good book.
The tree was named for its fall color. It really has two fall colors. The leaves first turn from green to an almost lemon yellow; then they turn a second time into a magenta/purple color. That was the picture in the garden catalog that first convinced me to purchase it. What the catalog didn’t explain was that the tree is an early turner, and an even earlier shedder. It was only a week and a half ago that I went out to the patio start the charcoal grill when I noticed a small – say five-foot patch near the top of the south side of the ash tree that was already yellow. I mentioned it to Michelle because we have learned that the autumn purple ash will be beautiful, but the show is over quickly. Sure enough; within a week the entire tree was yellow. A few days later the tree had turned that lovely purple color. And just a few days after that I went out to start the grill and I had to brush some of those purple leaves off of the grill cover.
While the maples usually will hold their yellow and orange and red leaves for a couple of weeks, and maybe even through some of those autumn driving rains and blustery days, with our ash tree once the leaves start falling it literally rains leaves, even on the calmest days. By the end of the third day of leaf fall all of this year’s shade is piled ankle deep around the tree’s perimeter.
Today I raked up most of those leaves to get them on the garden beds for compost material. The ash tree stands bare and winter-ready while the linden trees on either side of it haven’t even fully turned color yet. I stood at the base of the tree and took the accompanying picture looking straight up. It reminded me of the power of the Mass. The trunk stands like Jesus at the center with all of the branches spiraling upward, heaven bound and radiating outward as the God’s grace radiates outward into the world to touch and bless as the Holy Spirit wills it to be. It is in the Mass that we celebrate death that brought life. The ash stands tall and quiet and will now wait for spring and new buds.