Still Learning To See

Stepping back

The father of a dear, old childhood friend never liked to go back by the way he’d come. While I’ve fallen in love with the “loop walks” described in the fabulous little book I Left my Sole in Vermont (Nicole Grubman), I’ve also always been a firm believer in the fact that returning by the way I came was, if I let it just be so, an entirely different journey.

So I wanted to “journey back” into some photographs of I made a month ago in North Carolina on a walk with a dear friend. Knowing how much I loved trees, he wanted to show me a very special old Sycamore he’d come across. Given that we have only a few planted trees of this species in Central Vermont—they are native 100 miles south—I’ve always been enchanted by them.


The old tree Daryll showed me was absolutely enchanting! From a  multi-stemmed trunk to the modeled bark to a root-mass straight out of Wind in the Willows, I was moved by this particular tree and how magnificently varied life on our planet can be!

As if that was not enough, as we sat on a nearby bench marveling about how some seem to regularly cross between this world and others just beyond, Daryll spotted a large hawk. I stood to get a better view and it flew silently away among the trees. That, in turn, caused me to see what had been in front of my unseen the whole time: a Witch Hazel in full bloom!


In a world of remarkable life forms, surely this is one of the most remarkable as it blooms in the winter!

To complete the “loop journey” of this blog post, I return by way of yesterday here in Vermont where I saw another Witch Hazel bush in full bloom, but covered in snow:

tree-1425I hope to enjoy the journey, whether I venture in loops or out and back by the same route. There is so much to be seen and so many wonderful folks along the way to share it all with.


This entry was published on December 20, 2013 at 8:17 am. It’s filed under John Snell, People, Photograph, Trees, Vermont and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

6 thoughts on “Stepping back

  1. John – You are amazing! You see so many things that most of us pass by. You have added a dimension to the way I look at nature. This is a side of you that I never knew you had but it is a true talent and I thank you for sharing it with me and others. I hope you have many blessings this Christmas and I’m hoping that we’ll be able to cross paths in 2014 for that long over due cup of coffee to “catch up”! Again, thanks for sharing.

  2. Ah, John–when I retired and people would ask what I planned to do, I answered, “Spend the rest of my life in a state of perpetual awe!” You are the MASTER of awe and wonder–thanks so much for sharing not just what you see but your “reverence for life”, as Schweitzer would say.

  3. Marti Snell on said:

    Today’s post, pure poetry dear brother. Reminiscent of the cabin days?

  4. Chica Snell on said:

    The sycamore tree has always been a favorite of mine too. Part of it is that you and David planted one in the side/back yard of the other house I lived in on Green Road. Do you remember? Well, it got me to pay special attention to the whole tree…you two planted one in Mom and Dad’s yard too. I always loved the bark. There are several huge ones around here that I always love to go past and see. I will have to see if there are blooms on what I think you said was witch hazel at the end of. Y driveway. Love, Chica

    Sent from my iPad


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