|10/4/13 Platinum Carbon ink, watercolor, Strathmore 140 lb. paper|
In the Maple Leaf neighborhood where I live, a traffic circle is in the center of each unmarked intersection planted with flowers and usually a small tree. Two reflective diamonds are also prominent in each circle, since the objective of the circle is to make cars slow down and go around the circle. All of the cement circles themselves have a maple leaf motif going around them.
Except for one – the circle at Northeast 84th Street and Eighth Avenue Northeast. More than 20 years ago when the circles were first being put in, a huge controversy arose when the contractor who put in that circle decided to use stars and moons as the motif instead of maple leaves. Some community members got so upset that they wanted the contractor to redo it at a cost of thousands of dollars. (If you’re interested, you can read about the whole controversy.)
Everyone forgot about it after a while, and the stars-and-moons traffic circle still stands. I don’t feel strongly about the motif one way or another, but I like that I’ve lived in the neighborhood long enough that I remember the controversy.
Today I noticed that the small tree in that circle was suddenly blazing with color, so I walked the few blocks from my home to sketch it. (After putting up with our record-breaking wet September, we’re enjoying a beautiful early October! At least today.) I had always assumed that the tree was a maple, as many of the traffic circles trees are. But as I sketched it, I realized it’s not – the leaves are small and roundish, or a little heart-shaped. I did a Google image search, and I know it’s not an elm, either. I don’t think it ever turns red – only a bright yellow-orange. I’ll have to talk to someone who knows trees more than I do (in other words, almost everyone) and find out what it is. (Edited 10/5/13: Further research indicates that the tree is an aspen.)
It’s somewhat appropriate that the tree growing in the nonconformist traffic circle is also nonconformist.