Setting out with my camera at lunch today, I didn’t expect much to photograph on a day that looked and felt more like winter than spring. The dogwood and magnolia buds that I’ve been stalking the past few weeks remain in a cold-induced stasis, virtually unchanged since I last visited them five days ago.
So I set off toward the ag quad to see if I’d been missing anything on that end of campus. What emerged from the cold, gray of the landscape were the deep hues of the Paperbark Maple (Acer griseum) that stands beautifully at the northern end of the Ag Engineering building.
I often forget about this tree because it’s no longer a part of my daily exposure. For my first decade on campus, this maple grew directly outside my office window, along with two beautiful, 50-year-old magnolias that were removed when the university built the Institute for Genomic Biology. I can still remember the anger I felt as the magnolias were ripped unceremoniously out of the ground, their roots holding so tight to the soil that the whole building trembled.
The paperbark maple was treated differently. Although I’ve heard differing stories, it seems that this maple had a private benefactor who didn’t want to see it destroyed. One day, before construction on the new building began, a large excavator and crane removed the maple and its root ball and loaded it on a flatbed trailer to be transplanted to its current location. While I still mourn the loss of those magnolias, I stand in amazement every time I see the maple. That someone considered it so important to relocate it at such energy and cost is a tribute to its uniqueness and beauty.
Today, this grand paperbark maple stood out against the monochromatic gloom and reminded me of the day when I could look out my window, filling my view with the rich brown hues of the maple’s bark and the rose colored blooms of its magnolia neighbors. I am sure that if I turned my lens around, it would have photographed a smile of the most nostalgic kind.