Soccer season has started up again, which means I’m back to walking Josie every Monday and Wednesday around the same loop that borders the practice fields. Last night as we walked, Josie sniffing, me tugging the leash impatiently, I thought about that age-old expression: the more things change, the more they stay the same.
I thought about it while Josie sniffed the trunk of the maple tree, the same tree I’d snapped with my phone camera last October, flaming leaves set against a sharp blue sky. Its branches are bare now, a barely discernible bud on the end of each twig, waiting for the right moment to unfurl. But I know by September it will begin to flame again.
I thought about it when I walked past the fields – the middle school football team running the same plays, the lacrosse players swatting the same netted sticks, the tennis courts full again, thwap of yellow balls against racquets, the playground the same buzzing hive of small sliding, swinging, jumping bodies.
Another season, another six months passed, and here we all are, back where we were. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Look closely, though.
The boys on the field are taller, leggier. I can tell because some of them need new shorts, knobby knees and pale thighs extending below too-short hems. I suspect I wasn’t the only mother who gasped, pulling her boy’s shorts from beneath piles of long sleeves and jeans, holding them up by the waistband, knowing even before he tried them on that they’d be too small.
When we arrived home from Florida on Saturday, the first thing we all noticed were the daffodils. The day we left they’d offered the barest hint of yellow wrapped tightly within tissue-paper skin. A mere seven days later, bright heads bobbed in full bloom along the picket fence, perky faces trumpeting their early arrival. Next to them, lined up like wedding boutonnieres along the curb, crocus flowered lilac, white and sunflower yellow. Even the hyacinth was prepared to push its purple head up between green stalks.
Everything was new in just seven days’ time.
I admired my neighbor Karna’s pussy willow later that evening and asked to cut a couple of the branches beaded with soft fur. “You better do it soon, though,” she warned. “They’re already turning to seed.” When I looked more closely, I saw that it was true. In a day or two every furry bud will be covered with soft pollen-laden spikes, waving like tiny anemone in the breeze.
I worried aloud to Noah as we walked Josie through the neighborhood. The buds were unfurling too soon. Glancing up at the oak and maple trees, pointing at the delicate leaves decorating the lilac bush, I fretted: “One cold snap and they’ll all be dead. It’s too early, too soon.”
“It’s okay,” Noah reassured me. Most trees have the ability to produce several rounds of buds in a single spring season, he explained, usually two or three cycles. The silver maple can produce up to six bud cycles, so if its early, tender leaves are harmed by frost, it will push out another round of buds, and, if necessary, another and another, until the timing and the circumstances are right for the leaves to flourish.
It seems to me there is a divine metaphor in those tenuous silver maple buds. They remind me a little bit of the grace God lavishes on us – the chance after chance we are offered to bud again and again. Like the silver maple, we are given the opportunity to be replenished and reborn, to try once more and then once more again, perhaps when timing and circumstances are right to be born anew.
Those silver maple buds remind me, too, that the old adage really isn’t true. Things do change, but they don’t ever stay exactly the same, even when it seems on the surface that they do.
The daffodils are blooming in the same spot as always, but they are much earlier this year. The boys are playing soccer on the same field, but they are taller. And although we can’t know for sure, the silver maple trees may have already budded once or twice this spring, and quite possibly are being offered yet another chance to bud again.