Snag

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In all that snow, the only spot of flame was a white pine snag.

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In the white pine’s former life, its sap, trickling down from woodpecker holes, would’ve been the one thing close to white. Now, the woodpeckers can drill all they want – the wells have run dry. Not that that’s what they’re after, of course. And not that the sap has left the wood: that’s why the tree lingers for so many decades, wonderfully well preserved.

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A pine knot is like a cross between an eye and a knuckle bone, the last part of the tree to succumb to rot. Pine knots go off in a fireplace like firecrackers – that’s how full of life they still are. This isn’t just hyperbole: dead snags harbor more living things – fungi, molds, bacteria, invertebrates – than a living tree every could. It’s not death they embody, but a different kind of life.

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