Celebrating Ice Storm Tree Arcs at Balsamea

ARC: a part of the circumference of a circle or other curve
… and sometimes much more than that, or inspiring it

The ice storm of December 21-23, 2013 bent many trees at Balsamea.  Here are some examples, and thoughts about trees …

This clip from the top of a poplar tree is one of my favorites.  I’m not sure why.  Maybe it’s the sky.


I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says “Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.” ― Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

For more beauty, inspiration and fun …  

Here are two arcs of our namesake tree, the balsam fir (Abies balsamea).  This one arched over the trail.


This smaller one stood beside the trail:


This is a common sight here every winter: gray birch arcs over the trails.  This year, I went out with the lopping shears and cut away enough of the top branches to let the trees spring back up.  Next year these arcs won’t be here, so they sang their swan songs in this storm.  Robert Frost says it best … “One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.”


“Birches” by Robert Frost

When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy’s been swinging them.
But swinging doesn’t bend them down to stay
As ice-storms do. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun’s warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust—
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You’d think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right themselves:
You may see their trunks arching in the woods
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.
But I was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows—
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
One by one he subdued his father’s trees
By riding them down over and over again
Until he took the stiffness out of them,
And not one but hung limp, not one was left
For him to conquer. He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away
Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
And so I dream of going back to be.
It’s when I’m weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig’s having lashed across it open.
I’d like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth’s the right place for love:
I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.
I’d like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.


Here comes a series of maple arcs of various kinds.  First, two symmetrical arcs.  Can you tell which end is the base of the trunk?


Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.

A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.

A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live.

[…] So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness. Hermann Hesse, Bäume. Betrachtungen und Gedichte


Below is one of my favorites.  It looks like an illustration you might find in a story about Ichabod Crane, or something written by Edgar Allan Poe, from whom for decades I’ve enjoyed this favorite quote:

Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.  ― Edgar Allan Poe, Eleonora


by Samuel N. Baxter

When I pass to my reward.
Whatever that may be,
I’d like my friends to think of me
As one who loved a tree.

I may not have a statesman’s poise
Nor thrill a throng with speech
But I may benefit mankind
If I set out a beech.

If I transport a sapling oak
To rear its mighty head
Twill make for them a childhood shrine,
That will not soon decay.

Of if I plant a tree with fruit,
On which the birds may feed,
Then I have fostered feathered friends
And that’s a worthy deed.

For winter when the days grow short
And spirits may run low
I’d plant a pine upon the scape
T’would lend a cheery glow.

I’d like a tree to mark the spot
Where I am laid to rest
For that would be the epitaph
That I would like the best.

Tho it’s not carved upon a stone
For those who come to see
But friends would know that resting there
Is he, who loved a tree

Yeah, that’s me.  Here’s one I call “Bow and Arrow:”


What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another. Mahatma Gandhi

This picture, at the east end of Maplegate Path (named for its collection of maples at each end) shows NOTHING of the experience of it in the flesh, at the scene, in its grasp.  This is only a slight reminder of your need of the good of the woods.  Go.


The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness. John Muir

A little red pine gracefully bowing to the majesty of winter:


The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity… and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself. William Blake

A few of our treasured beech trees, which beg for climbing and swinging children.  Can you hear them?  I often think of hanging a swing here.


Winter then in its early and clear stages, was a purifying engine that ran unhindered over city and country, alerting the stars to sparkle violently and shower their silver light into the arms of bare upreaching trees. It was a mad and beautiful thing that scoured raw the souls of animals and man, driving them before it until they loved to run. And what it did to Northern forests can hardly be described, considering that it iced the branches of the sycamores on Chrystie Street and swept them back and forth until they rang like ranks of bells. ― Mark Helprin, Winter’s Tale

Back again to that poplar, this time in full view.  Yes, I think it is the sky.


Copyright © 2013 TheBalsamean.com ™ 119x108px

Make 2014 a year-long celebration of the woods.  Let me know how it’s coming along.

So ends the second part of my Ice Storm 2013 assault on your patience.  I have not made up my mind whether to hit you with any more.  But maybe if you ask for it …

All photos taken at Balsamea by The Balsamean.

Ice is a popular topic in this blog.  Some other posts about ice:
Balsamea Pregnant with Icicles (12/24/2013)

***  Ice (2/27/2013) – several of my old favorite ice pictures  ***
First Frost is ICE! (9/11/2012) – I love the first frost of the season..
Ice Revisited (3/17/2013) – Referral to ice pictures I liked in another blog

Recommended reading and viewing:

  • Looking Up (unlockingthegate.wordpress.com) – With spectacular pictures, this posts shows why it is important to be mindful of everything you’re walking through in the woods, not just the ground.  It also says, in effect, “Don’t let the weather control you.  Get out there.”  With a PhD in Planning on Nature and the Child Friendly City, blogger Cathy McAllister contributes to the healing of nature deficit disorder (and more) in her blog, Unlocking the Gate, “to explore ways in which we, as community members, government officials, teachers and parents can help children connect with the natural world and the larger community. In part, I hope this blog serves to remind me of what I know is important for my family, and for my own well-being.”  Writing can do that.  Really.
  • And I cannot resist sharing this other post from Unlocking the Gate, because, well … Oh Balsam Fir, Oh Balsam Fir.
  • Finding stillness in an ice storm (michellerisi.com)  In her blog, Just Another Random Thought, this blogger who likes to be upside-down, literally, physically, says that the recent ice storm “was an adventure that made us appreciate both the luxuries that we get to enjoy on a daily basis, as well as how vulnerable we are to natural disasters and what we need to do to prepare ourselves in the future.”  And it brought stillness into their lives.