God is the experience of looking at a tree and saying, “Ah!” —Joseph Campbell
… for me, even a fallen tree.
If looking at a tree can be a divine experience, or something transcendent, then what may be revealed or experienced when you spend a few days intimately connecting with every part of a big fallen tree and everything on the ground surrounding it, including clearing away many other trees that it fell on, changing it to a playground shaped from what had been a big obstacle fallen onto and blockading an important trail? What does that intimacy reveal?
The wind snapped off this big white pine at a point where its trunk had divided and where it became infected with a fungus common among white pines. This “stump” will die and become a tall snag that will stand potentially for decades, and be a great resource to wildlife.
After half a foot of sticky, soggy snowfall overnight, today the temperature at Balsamea rose well above freezing. Along our trails, rapidly thawing snow showered from the trees everywhere in these dense woods, especially from the pines and firs, those bearers of great snow-loads.
Click pix for full size images
It fell in droplets, spoonfuls, cupfuls, bucketfuls and barrowfuls. The still, windless air said nothing while each of these sizes played their particular sounds, all around me patting, drumming, shushing and thumping their way through tree limbs, branches, twigs and evergreen boughs, then concluding each phrase with a strike on the snow on the ground. They formed an unusual percussive symphony unique to this particular circumstance, in a special variation playing upon atypical conditions in the fresh snow cover.
When or where can you hear nature using trees and snow as instruments to drench the still air in sound this way, with a variety of visual effects, too? When do you get to sit in the middle of the orchestra as it plays? It filled the air within a great dome surrounding me, simultaneously at every volume possible to my ears. Some notes played a few feet from me, ranging out to ones played barely within hearing. Some struck funny notes on my ball cap and shoulders. Continue reading →
What is it about a situation like this that seems to
put something like vacuum pressure on the soul?
The situation, the experience, the moment, not the picture. The picture is a good reminder of what it was like, but as pictures go, it’s just an interesting snapshot of an arboreal skyscraper (I’ll keep the copyright just the same, thanks). The picture is also a reminder to keep looking up for scenery too often missed.
Backed by a twilight sky and the moon, the beech tree showed up at roadside at the end of a late afternoon’s short hike in a massive new parcel of state land enveloping Ellenburg Mountain in Ellenburg, NY.
Below are a few other things entertaining me that day in the woods, where boredom is impossible, mood problems go into remission, and from which bio-psycho-social health benefits continue into the future. Yes, there are social health benefits even if you’re out there alone. Think about it.
Debar Pond, a public natural resource in Duane, NY
Each phase of nature, while not invisible, is yet not too distinct and obtrusive. It is there to be found when we look for it, but not demanding our attention. It is like a silent but sympathizing companion in whose company we retain most of the advantages of solitude … –Henry David Thoreau, Journal, November 8, 1858
Warning: this article is 3,200 words; not a bloggism; a blogASM.
I warned you. Now enjoy.
As the beautiful old song from The Sound of Music says: “Climb every mountain / ford every stream / follow every rainbow / ’til you find your” swamp.
Originally I intended to let the snowshoe path pictures in my previous blog post speak for themselves. Today, Pyrrhite’s comment on that post got me wondering about what makes Balsamea’s snowshoe paths so attractive to me that I popped off more than 200 snapshots hoping to get lucky in the handful I found worth posting here.
In pithy Pyrrhite style, I read, “I love snowshoe trails. Nothing much is quite as compelling.” Why are they so compelling? Okay, Py, you pulled the cord to muse up a scribblement. Let’s see if I have the gas to shoot through it quickly, because I am supposed to be doing something else. I may be a scribblement addict, and you an enabler.
Click anywhere for carousel mode … better views and full captions.
Five Stump Skypatch on Whitetail Way (turns left from here) and the south terminus of Tettegouche Pass (branches to the right from here)
Frosted Maples and a Big Balsam – at the intersection where Fern Path, Bunchberry Path and Maplegate Path branch off Balsamea Way, at the point where it turns through an S just before becoming the leg of the Turkeyfoot intersection.
A scene from the Garden Lot, which is a wild garden, not a cultivated one.
Snow-Bent Gray Birch on Balsamea Way – Gray birches are known for growing fast, often in multiple-trunk clusters, dying young, and bending under snow load, often staying bent but usually recovering most of the way when the snow melts (or is knocked off by The Balsamean so he doesn’t have to duck under them when they block the trail like this).
More gray birch bending across Balsamea Way.
Gray Birch and Pine weighed down with snow on Balsamea Way
More trees bending across the trail.
Buddy tolerates snow and cold very well.
“Did you say COOKIE?”
Another view of that frosted maple. These things look magnificent in the sunlight and in 3-D when you are standing there in the crisp, fresh, cold air. No photograph ever does justice to the image. The amazing thing is that I get to walk around this place any time I want, and I do it at least three times every day of the year.
Looking east across the Garden Lot. Buddy is waiting for me to get done taking pictures so we can get going on our walk. That thing in front of him is a small rock cairn that may become larger a little at a time over the years.
View east across Garden Lot, Balsamea Way heading east to the right in this picture.
Looking west across the Garden Lot into the beginning of Balsamean Way. The house is in that bright spot down the trail.
Cloud-Swept Sky over Balsamea Headquarters.
A little spruce proving its capacity for snow load.
Turkeyfoot Leg East again.
Turkeyfoot Leg East Entrance. This is the scene at the point where Balsamea Way begins the leg into Turkeyfoot intersection, and Buddy again looking at me to see if I’m coming along or not.
Little opening on Whitetail Way at the intersection with the south end of Bunchberry Path. This is one of our most beautiful Balsam Fir snow scenes, because it gets a lot of south sun exposure across an empty space, making the balsam branches dense all the way to the ground.
Just one of the ways we made good of the anniversary of 9/11/01 …
This fern patch is in our “5-stump Skypatch.” Skypatches at Balsamea are little openings in our dense woods. This one is caused by the removal of a row of five large trees, by some selective logging done about ten years ago. Our “Whitetail Way” trail goes through the length of this skypatch.
Fernucopia at 5-Stump Skypatch on Whitetail Way Sept. 11, 2012