Outside behind our house, there’s a small park, with a playground and a picnic table for supervisory mothers and a soccer field. And on a little hill there is a tree. I don’t know tree varieties by looking at them, but it’s got a slender trunk and broad leaves. I keep my eye on it. Two years ago, I spotted a yellow leaf on it in June. That can’t be right, I told my local friend, a girl who grew up just a few miles down the road from here. Yeah, that’s really early for a tree to change, she said. Maybe it was a sick tree. Last year, summer tripped on the starting block and never bothered running the race, and it rained and rained some more. Crops were ruined, so I shouldn’t have been surprised, but that tree started to change in May. I saw the first yellow leaf and seethed. Summers are how I get through winters here. How was I supposed to watch it give up right in front of me, and not even try to wait it out? Once this tree started, others would follow, and—as if the rest of the world were going to follow this tree like a guru—all hope of summer would splash to the ground like so much rain.
Let me tell you, there was so much rain. It was the summer that never happened. A few springlike dry days here and there, and then I raked up leaves with the spicy smell of autumn in the air.
Now I watch the tree as though the soul of a gypsy fortuneteller lives inside it. Here it is, halfway through August on yet another clear, bright, gonna-be-a-hot-one day. My neighbor pushes her lawnmower through her patch of grass, children are wheeled into the park on bikes, in strollers, in little red wagons. (They’re plastic now. Sigh.) And those leaves are deep, glossy green. They’re reveling in it, and so am I. In fact, now that I’ve written this, I’m going out into it again. I’m pretty sure this is the best possible inoculation for an Ottawa winter.