Lovely being back in Vermont today, even if it was 7F this morning and gray all day, a challenge after a week in warmer, sunnier North Carolina. A long walk in Hubbard Park with a thin layer of crusty snow was centering.
Some of the ferns still showed through the snow with their green leaves. Amazing—impossible really—to think they are photosynthesizing the filtered sunlight even on a day like this. Humbling in a world where “power” seems to come at the flip of a switch or the press of the gas pedal. The world I walk through is full of stories if only I can listen.
This photograph is another that tells a story. One of the marvels of trees is that they can easily outlive an individual human or even several generations of us. So I can turn to them as they tell their stories, stories about a time before I was here. And I can look at them knowing they will one day tell others about me and my family and friends.
This White Oak (Quercus alba) was no doubt already a large tree when my wife’s great-grandfather settled on a farm in SE Michigan in 1900. The farm is no longer there, having become an industrial park (what an oxymoron!), but the tree—somehow—was spared. It was, one might even say, given a place of honor in our otherwise busy world as a spot where, on a picnic table in its shade, employees of the company could sit and take their lunch.
I don’t know how many people have eaten under this magnificent tree or who even notices how unusually large and broad it is but I’m sure there are at least a few. I know my father-in-law and his lovely daughter are among those who listen to the stories it still tells to anyone who stops to listen.
Part of the power of photography is how an image can share a story like the one this tree is. I recommend highly Remarkable Trees of Virginia, a fine presentation of these remarkable life forms and some of the stories embodied in them. And when you’ve enjoyed that, dig into the “grammar” of trees in Seeing Trees—stunning photographs and some of the finest writing you’ll ever read.