Trees of My Life II

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Trees of My Life II

From immense, solid Ponderosa pines to ephemeral, whippy willows, trees are intriguing. My first tree memory is a huge, many branched cottonwood tree that grew in front of the old homesteader’s house where my family lived when I was small. Her bark was a grey rough corrugated coat she wore. Her leaves were enormous serrated wide triangles with a sharp point that murmured bright green all summer long. In September, her leaves metamorphasized into golden lemon yellow. Bossy autumn winds parted the leaves from her, and they swirled through the clear glow of the air to earth. The final magic of the season from the leaves was the gigantic leaf pile raked together underneath her. My sister and I played for hours and hours in the leaves. Their bitter end of year tree and earth scent, crackle and cool kiss against my skin are with me still.

The etymology of tree threads back to this: “be firm, solid, steadfast.” Aren’t those the qualities we seek in our closest, most cherished friendships and relationships? The entire etymology definition is here.

My connection with each of the following trees will be told through captions.

I topped a ridge I had not climbed before, and this juniper tree sprang into being right front of me. The tree took my breath away. An immense presence, straight and tall despite the harsh weather he has withstood for who knows how many years.

A juniper tree I hike past fairly regularly who always draws my eye and senses. So rooted into the rocky earth. Ancient.

A year ago my friend, Sue, and I visited the Painted Hills. Spectacular colors. On the cloudy day, the colors popped. Although I took many photos, this one draws my eye. The silver-gilt light, pewter sky, and greys in the land reflect one another, highlighted by the shades of brown and almost white. The skeleton tree is stark; it brings a simple and powerful aesthetic to the view.

The tall tree in both photos is the same tree, from slightly different angles and seasons. This tree is on the land I grew up in. We call him The Old Fir Tree. His venerable presence has been there for all my growing up years – almost like an additional parent. He has weathered some of the harshest weather I have ever known, as well as some of the most beautiful days my body has soaked in. One of our main travel ways on the ranch is past The Old Fir Tree, so he has been a constant part of ranch happenings. In an earlier post about trees, I’ve also mentioned The Old Fir Tree. He was, and still is, an important part of my life.

Nightfall. Silhouette. I wonder, what is it that trees do at night?
Apple blossoms and Star Butte. Apple trees remind me of autumn apple picking, warm fruity apple scent, eyes searching out their red-yellow-pale green glow in branches, feel of their smooth skin in my reaching fingers, Mom’s work-of-art apple pie steaming spice and golden autumn days on the counter.
Queen Tree. For a few years, I walked past, underneath and around her, in all weathers. I have watched porcupines clamber up and down her and heard them munching on her twigs, deer feed underneath, and hawks survey their hunt from her topmost branches. Here she is in her end of season glory.

“Listening to the Forest” is an incredible project created by visual artist, writer and storyteller Leah Wilson. She has made actual wooden panels that depict the cellular structure of trees, and how this structure changes through time and location on the tree. I am not going to attempt to describe her work here, but if you visit the link, view the the video included. In the video Leah Wilson describes her process as well as the sensory details included with it.

Golden cottonwood highlights cattle, pale slate sky, an old pole fence. Isn’t this a scene that feeds our soul? There is livelihood here entertwined with care of the land and cattle.
Last summer, my friend Sue and I took a hot air ballon ride. Spectacular! Exhilarating! A new way to see the earth! This photo shows the early morning shadows of the balloon and juniper trees. The trees are sundials as they cast their shades across the ground. The balloon company is professional and loves their work. I highly recommend both them and a balloon ride.
New Zealand. I could easily live there.

Skeleton in water. On this overcast, fall day, most of the color is stripped from the reflection. In sepia tones, we can contemplate what we really see.

Ever wonder what it might be if you were a small, furry animal crawling through a tree? Or perhaps even a gnome?

Frosty. Black and white. Simple and complex.

Cats in trees. JuneBug on the left and Taz on the right. They are wilder in trees. When they look down on me as I stand underneath, a faint shiver passes through my body as they momentarily disappear into the guise of large, hungry predator.

Maria. Texas Longhorn. When she appeared from the cool green shade of aspens on a hot summer day, in a stand of verdant timothy and brome grass, I could feel the tradition of her long ancestry. Reaching to the early years of Texas and back through time to Spain and England, her essence was both foreign and wild, yet deeply embedded in the land of this country. In this article, I read that black was an unusual color for Longhorns. All the more uniqueness for Maria, who shared a close connection with Dad. When Maria left this earth, Dad buried her beneath a meadow of waving wild grasses, where she could continue to see him from his favorite chair at the oak kitchen table. Maria often stood in her pasture, close by the picture window that framed the oak table and the valley beyond, so she and Dad could look at one another.

The four photos above are of a Ponderosa pine, solitary within scattered juniper trees. She is magnificent. I love the top photo. In actuality, my shadow tells of me taking her picture. In the shadow world, that that exists beside our own, I salute and venerate her.

Somehow, I managed to capture the eye-squinting brilliance of the setting sun, as I walked a pathway strewn with gold.

  1. Thank you, Jenny, as always for beautiful moments captured in your blog. Your words and pictures lift me into nature, transport me through the seasons, and invite me into conversation with each tree. I am particularly enchanted by the winding bark of the first juniper – the one that took your breath away – and the close-ups of the ponderosa trunks. What tremendous life and dynamism there is in these textures. Thank you!

    1. Thank you, Sara. The winding bark on the first tree…many of the juniper trees have trunks that twist. It seems like there are more of them that twist clockwise than counterclockwise. An interesting phenomenon. Isn’t the bark on the Ponderosa intriguing? It looks like scales up close. As you articulate, trees are full of life!

  2. Thank you dear Jenny for you gave me a moment spent in nature – it felt real as I was looking at your marvellous and magnificent pictures of your trees. For a moment I was standing right where you were standing when you took these pictures. I too am fascinated with trees and wonder what they do at night…

    1. Thank you, Isabelle! Trees are powerful ambassadors for nature, aren’t they? Now matter where they may be growing. At night, it seems like their presence is more profound, in some way. Like they are waiting for something.

  3. So beautifully written and illustrated with your photos, Jenny. Thanks for reminding us of the mystery and importance of trees.

  4. Thank you Jenny for sharing your world through your beautiful and well composed photographs and words.

  5. Your intimacy with trees so resonates! I love the personal stories, connections, and the ponderings. Thank you for taking me through the hollow tree too in the video. Such fresh images in words and photos!
    Thank you.

    1. Going through the tree was fun! It made me feel small and furry, as if I was in my own little sanctuary peering out at the grasses, with the safe tunnel of tree around and above me. Thank you for your words and thoughts about Trees.

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