Still Learning To See

Another tree story

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.

A fine, old tree like this White Oak, probably 200 years old or more, has many stories to tell.

This entry was published on December 30, 2011 at 7:52 pm. It’s filed under Ferns, Hubbard Park, Trees, Winter and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

4 thoughts on “Another tree story

  1. I love the “Parr Oak” photograph–trees are my main “pathway” to the spirit of nature, and that oak is full of such history. I’m sure you’ve heard of Thomas Pakenham’s books REMARKABLE TREES OF THE WORLD and MEETINGS WITH REMARKABLE TREES. The main thing is that folks have to slow down in order to hear the stories that nature has to tell–and slowing down is becoming as endangered as other aspects of life on this planet. Thanks for your insights and your “sight” 🙂

  2. Marc Rosenbaum on said:

    Another wonderful book is The Attentive Heart: Conversations With Trees by Stephanie Kaza

    • Thanks Mark! I’ve got it on my list to find (and enjoy). I’ve had some lovely times on MV with my camera. The clay cliffs and beach at Gay Head are amazing! Will post some of them soon.

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