My continuing effort to see fall foliage with fresh eyes started right under my writing table window this morning. I love the way each fern frond turns color and curls at its own speed. (Click here for a closer view.)
We hadn’t planned our Adirondacks camping trip to coincide with the peak of fall color — in fact, my hiking buddy Lucy and I hadn’t really thought about it at all, because we see the fall foliage display every year, and we knew that if we didn’t catch it at its peak there, we’d certainly see it here. We just wanted to show Rachel one of our favorite places. (It also didn’t hurt that another blogger friend happened to live less than two hours away.) Hell, we were even foolish enough to think the campgrounds would be virtually deserted, as they had been the last time we’d visited the Adirondacks in October. No such luck.
Instead, we found ourselves hopping from campsite to campsite as spots became open in what had otherwise been a fully booked campground in the High Peaks region of the Adirondacks. (Thank you, rainy weather!) The cold rain might have made hiking and camping less than optimal, but it did nothing to diminish the autumn colors. And our British visitor seemed suitably wowed — that’s her arm in the photo above, gesturing in inarticulate appreciation at the drops of water dangling from the ends of shed white pine needles ornamenting a balsam fir bough. Though I did bring my own camera along, I had a hard time seeing things afresh. There’s just nothing like seeing something for the first time, as Rachel’s Adirondacks photo set attests. Go look, and prepare to be wowed yourself.
Incidental planet, Biblical
metonym for bitterness,
a green anti-fruit filled with air
in citrus-like sections
& harboring a larva at its core.
The oak’s response to a bit
of foreign matter is not
unlike the oyster’s: wall it off
inside a solid tear-drop.
Come fall, it turns red
but doesn’t rot, lapsing instead
into tough brown paper,
a manuscript in the round
that whelps a wasp.
With some trees, the knotholes
are among the last things to go.
You can find them staring up
from the ground, eye sockets
that never belonged to a skull.
It makes sense that trees would grow
their hardest wood around the weakest
points in their architecture.
This is called the branch collar,
& it is woven with wood
first from the branch
as it overlaps onto the trunk
& then from the trunk
as it overlaps onto the branch.
Behind the collar, in the parent
trunk or limb, the branch core forms:
a cone of decay-resistant wood
shaped like a spear with the flared
base facing outward, keeping
the agents of rot at bay
long after the rest of the branch
has fallen off. This is the knot.
Arborists talk of intergrown
& encased knots, loose & sound
& pin knots, red & black knots.
We who know them only from lumber
might imagine hard pills the tree
had been unable to dissolve.
We would not be wrong.
Each time a tree says yes to the sun
a no begins to form, firm & sharp
& pointed inward.
Based on a photo post from March 2011.
The last time I visited the old-growth stand of eastern hemlocks at Snyder-Middleswarth Natural Area, in central Pennsylvania’s Bald Eagle State Forest, the hemlocks were succumbing to a wooly adelgid infestation, and I figured they’d all be dead in a few years. That was early June 2007. My hiking buddy Lucy and I felt we should go back five years later and see what was taking the hemlocks’ place.
Yesterday’s post prompted some additional recollections from my mother. Sometime during their last fight to save the hollow from being clearcut back in the late 80s, my parents were meeting with the lumberman/owner of the neighboring property in a lawyer’s office in Tyrone (the town adjoining our mountain). Of all the loggers we’ve ever met, this guy was the hardest to come to an agreement with because he viewed his role as divinely ordained: God had put the trees there for Man to use. Forest trees are a crop that needs to be harvested — a not-uncommon view at industry-funded schools of forestry, by the way. He once told me and Dad on a walk through the woods: “These trees are overmature. They want to be cut!” (See my poem about the incident.)
So on this particular day, Dad had to go to work after the meeting, leaving Mom to walk up the hollow. She mentioned this by way of making small talk after the meeting — what a nice day it was for a walk. The lumberman was aghast. “You’re going to walk? Aren’t you afraid of trees falling on you?”
It was a very telling remark, and we couldn’t help wondering how many other loggers suffered from such extreme arborophobia.
Fear of trees isn’t restricted to those against whom the trees might legitimately harbor grudges, however. Not long after we moved in back in 1971, a farm woman in the valley — another neighbor — asked Mom if she wasn’t afraid to be surrounded by trees. “I’d be terrified to live up there. What would you do if there was a forest fire?” Some years later, a writer-friend of Mom’s from State College expressed the same fear, adding by way of explanation that she was claustrophobic.
Well, I can see that. Besides, anyone who watches television with any regularity would be familiar with the raging, canopy-height forest fires that occur annually in many parts of the west. Here in the east, in most forest types including ours, fire really isn’t much of an issue. What forest fires do occur tend to be low-key affairs that scorch a few acres and kill a few fire-intolerant trees (read: trees that are not oaks) before they burn themselves out. It’s only in recently logged-over areas where the dried-out ground is deep in discarded limbs and branches that true conflagrations can occur.
Fear of forests in general is of course pretty widespread — just think about how many horror movies are set in cabins in the woods. It’s not altogether irrational to be afraid of wild places if you don’t know what you’re doing, or if there are aggressive poisonous snakes or grizzly bears about. Our black bears and timber rattlers are pretty hard to piss off, but to the extent that such things keep fools and lumbermen at bay, we could stand to have a lot more of them.