Until recently, the small pile of cut twigs from the barberry sat on the grassy boulevard in front of our house. Chris cuts branches from any other plant into small pieces and reserves them for use in our compost bin over the fall and winter, but not the barberry, because of its thorns. Instead, he placed them on the boulevard in preparation for someone from the district to drive by, as they do twice a year, to process yard debris through a chipper. In comparison to the larger, more obvious, pile of debris at our neighbor's house, Chris's pile was scarcely visible, and became less so as the large, fiery red leaves from the maple trees above fell down, covering it over. I was concerned it would be buried by the time the chipper arrived and remain there until the following spring.
Every time I went out for a run over the subsequent weeks, I saw the little pile, and thoughts of Chris came readily to mind--calculating, that Sunday afternoon, the location of each clip, taking great care not to remove too much and adversely change the shape of the plant. What I saw in front of me, sitting on the boulevard, was, to most people, a small pile of yard debris, nothing to pay any mind to. But, as the days passed, it came to represent so much more. Just last weekend, only a few days before the chipper arrived, I became aware of tears in my eyes as I walked past it. Almost hidden then by brilliant red leaves, there it was, Chris's little pile of twigs--inexplicably symbolic of the character, integrity, and beauty of the most amazing human being I know.