One perfect thing

The day was OK. The day was better. The dawn was beautiful.

There was a flaw in the day. At 2 p.m., the guy who did the floor refinishing was supposed to come back to the house and fix some mistakes. They hadn’t realized that our upstairs loft has no subfloors, so when they coated the wood floor, the polyurethane dripped down into the ceiling of the main level.

I’ve had enough of dealing with house repair management. I made a point to not be home at 2 p.m. I did some errands, then went for a hike.

On the hike, I had a little talk with myself, as I often do on hikes. Cheerio, pip-pip, chin up, that sort of thing.

Winter hiking has fewer visual perks. All the flowers are asleep, so you are left wandering amidst memories of the hikes of other seasons.

I remembered plants I’d seen on this trail in August, photos I had taken here years ago. I redrew my visual map of the parts that I’d walked in the snow.

As I came down a broad swath of an old road bed, not 10 feet ahead a golden leaf drifting down, turning and spinning. It gyrated in perfect spirals, picking up a lilt every few turns, like the feather in Forrest Gump.

I stood and watched it as it fell at my feet.

It was from a beech tree, Fagus grandifolia. They don’t, actually, shed their leaves in winter. They wait until spring, when the new, cigar-shaped buds push their way out from the very tips of the branches, and then they give up the ghost.

Who knows why this one fell. It saw me coming. It knew that I know beech leaves. It danced before me and landed, softly, knowing that I would stop and kneel and look.

The leaf was perfect.

In this world and this era, when wretchedness seems to have overtaken every second and molecule of the human-trodden earth, this leaf was perfect.

Its shape. Its color. The spacing and curvature of its veins. The way it rested; the way it stirred in the breeze.

By kneeling next to it, seeing, touching, I knew perfection.

I spoke to it. Oh beech leaf. How perfect thou art.

When I got home, the floor refinisher was still there. A lovely guy, Carlos. He was scraping off the drips from the ceiling. It was really hard work. His arms must have hurt, holding them far above his head and pushing against the ceiling. I heard him panting and grunting.

I told him how beautiful the floors are. I asked him about wood and refinishing. He told me how to redo my cabinets. He was very careful to clean up after himself, sweeping the bits of scrapings from the floor.

The floors are perfect, and now the ceilings are perfect too.

I am so spoiled. So much perfection.

Today’s penny is a 2009, the year I discovered the beech tree.