A Year for Forests

buck rub locust

I see from the photo that it was snowing when I snapped this. I was intent on the flayed tree, this black locust savaged by a horny buck who must’ve bent it halfway to the ground to reach so far up its trunk. It’s O.K. with me; the tree isn’t one we necessarily want to survive. It’s one of the advance scouts for the forest’s never-ending attempt to take back the ground it lost 150 years ago to field and orchard.

Black locusts are good at that: rhizomatic, nitrogen-fixing, fast growing… the perfect native colonizer. As fast as we prune them out of the old meadow, they reappear, new sprouts capable of growing five feet in a year. The tree in the photo looks like a three-year-old to me. Armed for combat of a sort with its short thorns (nothing like those on a wild honey locust), a black locust sapling seems like good match for a deer’s antlers, which must be flayed themselves and then polished and honed: trees that live a single season and never sprout a leaf.

fungal log

In the black cherry woods near the Far Field, time and rot have stripped all the bark from a tree brought down by ice five winters ago. Now its bare trunk burns with new life, albeit not the kind typically featured in parables about self-transformation. I look around for saplings in the openings the storm made, and spot a few, but almost none of them are hickories or oaks.

I have seen this forest devastated again and again: by gypsy moth caterpillars 30 years ago and by ever-more-frequent ice storms, the result no doubt of the changing global climate. Will stands like this ever revert to closed-canopy forest, or will they continue to thin until half the mountain is covered by savanna and dominated by fast-growing colonist species such as black locusts, black cherries, striped and red maples, and the alien tree-of-heaven?

It’s easy to get depressed and forget that whatever happens, however stark a desert we make, it will still be beautiful. On a cloudy late afternoon in the monotone winter woods, this allegedly dead tree was by far the most colorful thing.


2011 is the International Year of Forests. For the New Year’s edition of the Festival of the Trees, which will be hosted at the British blog Nature’s Whispers, we’re asking bloggers to share tree-related plans or resolutions, or simply to reflect on their relationship with forests. As for me, I hope to see our family’s 640 acres of mountaintop land given long-term protection through a conservation easement by next year’s end. Uncertain as the future of the forest may be, we need to give it at least a fighting chance.

Reliving the fall

the big oak

Just like that, it’s over. After all the breathless anticipation and hype, all the bluejay jeers and scolding squirrels, it’s hard to believe how quickly the moment passes and the ground is littered with the fallen. I speak, of course, of the autumn foliage, which in many parts of the northern hemisphere reaches its peak of color sometime in October. In no other month do so many people focus on trees, and if you want to relive it, there’s no better way than to peruse the links in the latest edition of the Festival of the Trees — which was hosted this time not by a northern blog at all, but by one based in Bangalore, India: Trees, Plants and more. Week by week, Arati chronicles her harvest of tree-related entries from around the world. Continue reading “Reliving the fall”

Poetic trees

black birches in Plummer's Hollow
black birches in Plummer's Hollow

This month’s Festival of the Trees blog carnival at Kind of Curious features an unusually large haul of poetry, including poems by Daniela Elza, Nic S., Eric Burke, Dorothee Lang, Walt Franklin and Rob Kloss. I also enjoyed some of the more informational posts on topics ranging from nurse trees to the destruction caused by the recent tornadoes in New York City to the practical and legal implications of tree-hugging in the U.K. I’m not going to link to any of these individually, because John did all the work pulling the link-fest together — he deserves all the traffic. So go visit.

Don’t forget to bookmark or subscribe to the coordinating blog of the Festival of the Trees, and whenever you happen to blog about trees or get a tree-related item published on the web, try to remember to send us the link. Also, we still need a volunteer to host the festival on December 1, so let me know if you’re interested.

One final tree-related note: my mother’s nature column for October is all about last year’s devastating October snowstorm. I think I posted some of my photos here at the time, but Mom goes into much more detail than I did, so go for the photos if you want, but stay for the writing. That storm was about as much excitement as we ever get around here.

I went out in mid-morning while it was snowing heavily again. The forest was a palette of white, gold, and green. Black birch and witch hazel trees were bent over and a few black gum trees had broken in the woods both inside and outside the deer exclosure.

Large branches littered the Far Field Road along with occasional whole trees — red maple, sugar maple, hickory, chestnut oak, and a split black cherry. Once again snow piled up on the leaves and branches of standing trees, and after I had walked over to the Sapsucker Ridge Trail and across the black-locust-bowed Far Field, I heard the smash of a tree or large branch on the Far Field Road. Nervous about my safety, I tried to hasten along the ridgetop trail…

Snow on autumn leaves is a beautiful sight. But an excess of beauty can be a terrible thing.

Black cherry: tree of affliction

black cherries

I always think of the wild black cherry (Prunus serotina) as a tree of affliction. Even its fruiting can be a burden to it on years like this, when branches bend low under the weight of the crop and black bears break them in their inexplicable eagerness to feast on the sour, stony fruits. Nor are they alone: as my mother wrote in a column last year,

In addition to cedar waxwings, I saw red-eyed vireos, blue jays, and scarlet tanagers harvesting wild black cherries, but the list of songbirds and other wildlife that feast on them is legion. Thoreau mentioned gray catbirds, brown thrashers, eastern kingbirds, blue jays, red-headed woodpeckers, eastern bluebirds and northern cardinals as the most common birds that eat wild black cherries, in addition to robins and cedar waxwings. Huge piles of bear scat studded with cherry pits on our trails testified to their popularity with bears. And the smaller animals, such as foxes, squirrels, and chipmunks, also ate the fruit.

Continue reading “Black cherry: tree of affliction”

To a Child in a Tree, by Jorge Teillier

This entry is part 37 of 38 in the series Poetry from the Other Americas


You’re the sole inhabitant of an island
known only to you, encircled
by a surf of wind
and a silence barely touched
by a barn owl’s wingbeats.

You can see a broken plough
and a threshing machine whose skeleton houses
one last gleam of sun.
You see summer shrunk into a scarecrow
whose nightmares disturb the wheat.
You see the irrigation ditch in whose depths your missing friend
grabs hold of the paper boat you launched.
You see the town and fields spread out
like pages in a spelling book
where one day you’ll realize you’ve read
the true history of happiness.

The storekeeper goes out to close the shutters.
The farmer’s daughters herd the chickens in.
In the sky, the eyes of strange fish
begin a menacing vigil.
Better return to earth now.
Your dog comes bounding up to meet you.
Your island sinks in the sea of night.


A un niño en un árbol
de Jorge Teillier

Eres el único habitante
de una isla que sólo tú conoces,
rodeada del oleaje del viento
y del silencio rozado apenas
por las alas de una lechuza.

Ves un arado roto
y una trilladora cuyo esqueleto
permite un último relumbre del sol.
Ves al verano convertido en un espantapájaros
cuyas pesadillas angustian los sembrados.
Ves la acequia en cuyo fondo tu amigo desaparecido
toma el barco de papel que echaste a navegar.
Ves al pueblo y los campos extendidos
como las páginas del silabario
donde un día sabrás que leíste
la historia de la felicidad.

El almacenero sale a cerrar los postigos.
Las hijas del granjero encierran las gallinas.
Ojos de extraños peces
miran amenazantes desde el cielo.
Hay que volver a tierra.
Tu perro viene a saltos a encontrarte.
Tu isla se hunde en el mar de la noche.


I came across this poem just this morning, and decided to try translating it for the 50th edition of the Festival of the Trees (submissions due by midnight!). The host this time is Growing with Science Blog, and the theme: Trees through a child’s eyes.

Climbing trees was a regular activity for my brothers and me when we were kids. Mom warned us to be careful and look out for each other, but other than that, she and Dad encouraged us to explore, for which I am eternally grateful. We stayed away from fruit trees and other species we knew to have brittle banches, but we certainly didn’t shy away from tackling the tallest trees we could get up into. Usually, these were woods’-edge trees with a convenient ladder of limbs on the field side.

Needless to see, this was free-hand climbing, usually with bare feet for added traction. We tried building tree forts a couple of times, but none of us really had the carpentry skills to make it happen, and besides, if you climb high enough, the leafy branches close in and it’s just as easy to pretend you’re surrounded by walls. Tellier’s poem resonated with me, even though we don’t live in sight of town, because it really captures that shipwrecked experience of being alone in the top of a tree, and seeing how things below seem to grow distant in time as well as in space.

In some way that I can’t quite put into words, climbing trees strikes me as an essential experience — one that teaches you things you can’t learn any other way. Our physiognomy still reflects the arboreal habitat of our not-so-distant ancestors; watching the tree elves in Lord of the Rings or the Na’vi in Avatar, we’re struck by a powerful nostalgia. Trees are almost like godparents, nurturing, teaching us both how to aspire and how to respect our limits. It saddens me to think how many kids these days never get to learn such things.

Music from a tree and other arboreal diversions

Diego Stocco – Music From A Tree from Diego Stocco on Vimeo.

John Cage has always been a hero of mine (I love the quote that Laura includes in the sidebar of her blog, The Ordinary and the Wild: “I am trying to be unfamiliar with what I’m doing.”) Diego Stocco’s arboreal music-making also reminds me of another favorite quote, by the Spanish poet Miguel Hernandez: “The orange tree outside my window is a greater influence than all the poets put together.”

Stocco’s video (read all about the making of it at the Behance Network) is one of several things that blew me away at the latest Festival of the Trees complilation of blog links. Go. Visit.

Beech grotesquerie

multiple selves

The smoothness of their bark makes beech trees, both American and European, among the sexiest and also the most grotesque of trees. Branch scars and other markings that would virtually disappear on trees with more bark-like bark are hard to miss on a beech.

neurotic beech

Some beech trees look downright neurotic. But who can blame them? The great beech forests of North America are gone, clearcut two centuries ago to make way for farms, to such an extant that most people who spend anytime outdoors assume that beeches actually prefer the mountainsides and ravines in which they’ve made their last stand. The passenger pigeon, which once visited beech forests the way hurricanes visit Florida, has been extinct for a hundred years. And now a non-native scale insect is helping beech bark disease decimate the remnant stands, though thankfully it hasn’t appeared in Plummer’s Hollow just yet.

beech holes

It was the trees’ abundant mast that accounted for their popularity with passenger pigeons, of course, and beechnuts still feed many species today. But the grotesqueness of beech trees has wildlife value, too: the frequent hollows in older trees can provide den sites for a wide variety of birds and mammals. Many trees rot out as they age, but beeches seem to get started on it early.

the ring tree

Nor does the grotesquerie end with weird, vaguely human scars and orifices. The self-grafting ability of beech limbs can produce some bizarre effects, as in the above specimen, which grows right next to the Plummer’s Hollow Road.

ring tree closeup

I am kind of at a loss to explain how this happened… or why it took me so many years to notice it. I don’t know how many more years we’ll have canopy-height beeches in the hollow — not too far north of here, all the big beeches are dead — so I figure I’d better start paying more attention to them now.


Beech bark disease won’t wipe them out completely, but it will probably kill almost all the mature beeches and keep new root sprouts from getting very big, just as the chestnut blight has done for American chestnuts. The grotesquerie will be all but lost, and the tree from which the word “book” is derived may become little more than an asterisk and a footnote.

Watch the full slideshow (13 photos in all) or browse the set (easier for people with slow connections).


Don’t forget to submit tree-related blog posts to the Festival of the Trees. The deadline for the next edition, at The Voltage Gate, is Friday, February 26. See the call for submissions for details on how to participate.

Winter trees in a flood

fungus birch

Steady rain turned into a downpour early Sunday evening and didn’t let up for another fifteen hours. And just like that, we had a flood. In the same way that you get flash floods after hard rains in the dry West, here in the winter when the ground is frozen hard and the trees are leafless and dormant, there’s little to keep the water from running into the nearest ravine. We lost hundreds of dollars worth of quarry stone from the Plummer’s Hollow Road in just a few hours.

It would take a solid week of hard rain to get this kind of flood on a forested landscape in the summer. If these rare winter floods serve any purpose, it may be to remind us what would happen — what has happened here in the past — in the absence of forests: every hard rain turns into a flood.

Little Juniata in flood

At the bottom of the hollow, the Little Juniata River wasn’t so little anymore. It roared just a couple feet below the deck of our access bridge, which shook as floating logs and tires thudded against the pier. The riverbanks became instant swamps.

trees in ice 1

Nor was the flooding restricted to low places; the ephemeral ponds at the very top of the Plummer’s Hollow watershed grew and merged briefly into one big pond. Then the temperature dropped and everything froze.

trees in ice 3

By the time I got up there to take pictures yesterday afternoon, the water level had fallen by half a foot, leaving a sagging ice ceiling with little underneath it and nothing but scattered tree trunks to hold it up — an ephemeral architecture, like some boom town gone bust.


Don’t forget to submit tree-related blog posts to the Festival of the Trees blog carnival. The deadline for the next edition, at the UK-based treeblog, is January 30 — see the call for submissions for details on how to submit.

Also, be sure not to miss the interview with Pablo, Jade and me at the Nature Blog Network. We talk all about the Festival of the Trees: how it got started, why we do it, how it’s not really some kind of freaky tree cult, and why you should join us.

Tree feast

three deer in snowy woods 2

I’ve been remiss in not linking to Jason Hogle’s wonderful Festival of the Trees #43: The Celebration Tree Grove. It manages to be everything that the previous edition of the FOTT, hosted here at Via Negativa, was not: elegant, concise, thoughtfully composed. Nor did Jason neglect to include a conservation message:

The grove stretches out before me, stone trails and wooden benches leading me through the birth of a place where loved ones are honored, remembered and celebrated. Not remembered through statues and not honored with memorials. A more important kind of dedication celebrates lives lost: the planting of trees. The grove represents the very spirit of 2010, the International Year of Biodiversity.

Go visit and enjoy a feast of links.

three deer in snowy woods 1

Today was the last day of deer season in Pennsylvania. These three does, which often hang around the houses, weren’t quite out of the woods yet when I photographed them from my front porch today around 11:30. Today was the sunniest day we’ve had in quite a while, and I had been intending to capture the long shadows and sharp contrasts when the deer showed up. Thank you for making the forest more photogenic, even as you do your best to ensure that it has no future by eating as many shrubs and seedlings as you can.

three deer in snowy woods 3

Feasting on the limbs and saplings felled by October’s freak snowstorm is O.K., though, I suppose.

If you’d like to be included in next month’s festival at the U.K.-based treeblog, here’s the call for submissions.

Festival of the Trees 42: seven billion new trees

old rock oak (Quercus prinus)

Welcome to the 42nd edition of the Festival of the Trees! When I announced this edition on the coordinating blog, I joked that I felt a little like the Once-ler, the hermit-like narrator of Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, who gives the boy a tree seed to plant at the end of the book. I’ve been saying for years that I felt we needed to be focusing on reforestation as a society, but did anyone listen? No, they did not. Until now.

Suddenly, tree planting is hot. This month in Copenhagen, world leaders will assemble to try and hammer out a new climate change agreement, and forest preservation is front and center. Deforestation has been estimated to account for around 20 percent of CO2 emissions worldwide — more than the cumulative total from cars and trucks. Countries from the global South are angling for compensation in return for halting or reversing deforestation, but even developed countries like the United States are seeing a renewed interest in restoring forested landscapes. As Science Daily reports, “Across the U.S. as a whole, approximately 50 percent of the warming that has occurred since 1950 is due to land use changes (usually in the form of clearing forest for crops or cities) rather than to the emission of greenhouse gases.” That’s a quote from a planning expert named Brian Stone, who “recommends slowing what he terms the ‘green loss effect’ through the planting of millions of trees in urbanized areas and through the protection and regeneration of global forests outside of urbanized regions.”

Nobel Peace Prize Winner Wangari Maathai, founder of the Green Belt Movement, wrote back in August:

Scientists predict that as the temperature rises, soils in the tropics will dry up. Trees and forests could die off on a vast scale, and fresh water will be less available. The rivers leaving Kenya’s Mau forest, which replenish many lakes, including those essential to the tourism industry, are drying up. Where government policies are inadequate, communities hungry for agricultural land degrade forests, exacerbating the negative impacts of climate change.

The world hopes that in Copenhagen, governments will be guided by the realities of available scientific evidence, and act accordingly. I welcome the development of new incentive mechanisms, such as reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD), which should also address degradation of agricultural land. REDD would compensate developing countries for environmental services provided by indigenous forests left standing.

Other mechanisms have been proposed and should be considered, including an “emergency fund” by the Prince of Wales’ Rainforest Project, which would provide payments from public and private sources to countries that protect their rainforests.

On carbon markets, a lot is yet to be learned. The Green Belt Movement is implementing pilot projects with both the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and voluntary carbon credit schemes, the experience of which is valuable. It’s important that such markets serve the forests, conserve biodiversity and improve the livelihoods of communities.

Public education is also essential. In 2006, the Green Belt Movement partnered with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Prince Albert II of Monaco, and the World Agroforestry Centre to launch the Billion Tree Campaign. In March 2009 we passed the three billion mark for new trees planted by governments, organizations, communities, the private sector, and individuals. Our new goal is planting of an additional seven billion trees by the end of 2009 — roughly equal to what the human population will be then.

October snowstorm 2: oaks and maples

Of course, trees and forests are far more than just carbon sinks and preservers of fresh water supplies. To begin with, their sheer aesthetic impact on the human psyche cannot be minimized. Rambling Woods blog presents an unusually comprehensive post on fall foliage, including the transcript for a National Public Radio story from the end of October about how deciduous leaves fall (it turns out they’re actually pushed), as well as precise directions for how to preserve colored leaves. Leslee at 3rd House Journal writes about the “Conservation of Color” in language taken straight from the biology of deciduous trees — but in a fully lyrical, satisfying, short poem. To her, the trees promise

curatives for sharp tongues,
faintness of heart, muddlement,
sensitivity to cold and darkening days.

Jade at Arboreality shows us “Black Cottonwood in Autumn Gold,” a striking sight. At A DC Birding Blog, John watches the sky for red clouds of berries, sign of the winged, shining, flameleaf, or dwarf sumac, A.K.A. Rhus copallinum. Another D.C. blog, The Natural Capital, advises Washingtonians to look for “Witch Hazel, the Last Flowers of the Year.” In addition to the ornamental Asian species, which flowers in the winter, there is apparently native, fall-blooming Hamamelis virginiana in Rock Creek Park.

Witch hazel is also the subject of a post this month at Connecticut-based Hill-Stead’s Nature Blog, whose proprietor sent along a link to post on Sassafras, as well. Both posts blend the personal with the scientific and folkloric into brief but comprehensive posts — tree-blogging at is best, if I may say so. They do have a bit of an unfair advantage with the witch hazel, though: Hill-Stead is right up the road from “the witch hazel capital of the world.”

At Yips and Howls, a species account of the western larch by Elizabeth Enslin mixes the personal with the scientific, while Florida panhandle-based writer Beth Westmark is revisiting Sequoia National Park.

The Ella Bay wilderness in far northern Queensland is home to endangered cassowaries, among other treasures, and it seems the giant, flightless birds are there in part due to a rich diversity of fruiting rainforest trees, according to the blog Ella Bay Forever. Russ Constable not only took great photos but also consulted with three different scientists in the identification and ecological significance of the fruits gathered on just one walk along the beach.

From the island of Oahu in Hawaii this month came word of a hanging potato tree — or so blogger Sarala dubbed it at first. She figured it might be a non-native species, and so it was: Kigelia africana, or sausage tree, native to West Africa. “The island of Oahu seems to have trouble taking care of its native species,” she notes.

Wildlife biologist Ellen Snyder blogged a species sketch of the eastern hemlock at Spicebush Log, drawing attention not only to its identifying characteristics but also to its role in the ecosystem and the threat it faces from an invasive insect pest, the woolly adelgid. Unfortunately, this a threat we’re all too familiar with here in central Pennsylvania.

crabapple after rain

A New York Times article, “Building with Whole Trees,” by Anne Raver, describes forester and architect Roald Gunderson’s unique approach to building with whole, unmilled trees, often painstakingly shaped into arches while still alive, a process taking years. Most foresters look at the woods with an eye shaped by industrial monoculture, the predominant mindset of forestry schools in agricultural colleges across North America. But the best foresters — such as those employed by mountain villages in Switzerland — are really gardeners, and Gunderson is clearly in this camp. If the Times article is any indication, Gunderson’s homes are beautiful, too.

Here at Via Negativa this month, I blogged about a more typical, destructive approach to timbering on a neighbor’s land — high-grading. On a more positive note, I also shared a photo and short poem about wild apples.

Sometimes, apparently catastrophic die-offs of trees are simply part of the natural cycle, and I hope the climate change mitigation planners recognize this. At the aptly named blog under the ponderosas, Jennifer presents “Reason 645 why my blog readership is so low” — her penchant for telling the unpalatable truth about ponderosa pine forests. They’re fire adapted. They’re meant to burn. “The lodgepole forest is dead; long live the lodgepole forest,” she intones.

But the threats to trees by greedy humans seem never-ending. This month I was incensed to learn that sandalwood trees are under attack from smugglers. “How do we protect these trees?” asks Chennai-based blogger Arati. “Maybe each one of us can do our bit by not patronizing sandalwood products, be they in soaps, powders, oils or perfumes.”

In another post at Trees, Plants and more, Arati wonders about the logic of planting lines of trees from a single species. “If a disease struck one tree would it not strike all others on the same road? Does this not compartmentalize the ecological diversity of the area?” Good question. There’s clearly more to this tree-planting business than meets the eye.

Pablo at Roundrock Journal is taking a decidedly laissez-faire approach to planting trees in his Missouri woods, scattering bald cypress seeds in likely spots around streams and draws in hopes that the next flood will deposit them in optimal locations for sprouting.

Greenspade blog shares tips on planting trees for energy efficiency around your house, but local ecologist takes it a step further, delving into the question of which street trees to plant from an ecosystem standpoint.

Large stature trees — like red oak, London plane tree, or sweetgum — do interfere with overhead wires, but they also provide greater ecosystem benefits than do small stature trees: they sequester (store) more carbon, filter more particulate matter from the air, and intercept more rainfall via leaves, trunk, and soil (and slow runoff into storm drains). And, because of their larger crown spread and evapotranspiration capacity, larger trees cool larger areas of surrounding air (cooling nearby infrastructure and buildings, too).

This is no ordinary blog post; Georgia has done some of the research herself and has the data to back up her claims. Everyone with an interest in urban landscapes needs to read this essay.

Local ecologist does feature lighter pieces, too, including a couple photo-essays this past month on the trees of Sir Winston Churchill Square in Greenwich Village and the St. Louis City Garden.

In addition to the many more obvious values of urban trees (aesthetics, cleaner air, shade), their penchant for making leaf prints on concrete sidewalks can turn an otherwise ordinary stroll through the ‘hood into a magical thing. Neighborhood Nature takes a close and thorough look.

black knot on Prunus serotina

On his North Carolina mountaintop, Christopher C. wakes up one morning to find that a tall black locust tree has split and is threatening to crush a nearby apple. This is a situation I know all too well: the black locusts around the houses here on our Pennsylvania mountaintop have constantly calved limbs over the years. Great as black locusts are for fence posts and for forest restoration projects, they do not make good yard trees!

Crackskull Bob unwinds from watching the Sunday morning talking heads by sketching a broken tree, while the wonderfully cracked artist Christoph Niemann at Abstract City, a New York Times blog, shapes real leaves into a Shel Silversteinian form of biodiversity. His new “finds” include such rarities as Rod-Blogojevich’s-Hair Tree and Eighties-Jeans Tree.

Trees appeal to all kinds of artists, it seems. Withering leaves on the ground inspire UK blogger Suzi Smith, who uses walnut ink to reproduce the “sludgy colours” in her haiku calligraphy.

Photoblogger Catherine Kennedy shares a couple shots of Achray Forest, which is part of the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park in the Trossachs, in Scotland. Just west of Edinburgh, Crafty Green Poet reports on a walk through the Almondell County Park’s ancient woodland, notable for its very old birch trees.

I confess I didn’t realize that Dutch elm disease was a problem in Europe, too, but in a “meeting with a remarkable tree,” the Oxford Elm, British blogger Tony comments that large old elm trees have become scarce “as 80% of Elms succumbed to Dutch Elm disease. Dutch Elm disease has been with us for centuries but in the 1960s a virulent strain arrived on these shores from North America. Some 20 million trees were killed.”

Ashley Peace in Sheffield, England shares a photo-essay on Autumn in Millstone’s Wood, where the ground lies thick in fallen beech leaves.

Arati from Chennai sent along one other post late in the month, reporting on a local Free the Tree campaign: groups of people get together, in this case organized by Arati herself, to remove the hundreds of nails pounded into roadside trees over the years to hold advertisements. The volunteers then fill the wounds with a mixture of soil and turmeric paste to help them heal. I had known that turmeric is considered something of a heal-all for humans, but hadn’t realized it works on trees, too.

Novelist and poet Marly Youmans is someone who’s spent a lot of time thinking about what trees and humans have in common. She sent along the link to some of her recent treeish poems in the online journal Mezzo Cammin: “The Foliate Head,” and “The Throne of Psyche,” which begins,

A soul’s mysterious as any tree–
It drives a root as deadly low as hell,
It stretches peaceful branches heaven-high,
It harvests light with leaves of memory.

The last submission I received for this month’s festival returns us, once again, to the theme of tree-planting. A post at Nature’s Whispers captures the solemnity, the pathos, and the unintended humor of a tree-planting ceremony to honor two stillborn children.

We had told my 3 year old daughter that today we would be planting a tree. As we all know, the world revolves around every toddler so my daughter obviously understood that to mean that she would be doing the planting. She picked up our precious sapling and flung it around like a majorette twirls her mace before plonking it unceremoniously into the hole, upside down. I heard my intake of breath as my heart rested in my mouth and I gasped ‘be gentle’. It all turned out all right in the end, the tree was planted. My daughter helped pack the earth around the roots with her hands, as she did on the days her sisters were buried. You’ve got to love that girl, I’m sure she was born a healer.

sunrise from Laurel Ridge


Thanks to everyone for sending in links and restoring my faith in the long-term viability of this blog carnival! The next edition of the Festival of the Trees will appear at xenogere on January 1, 2010. Email your links to Jason — jason[at]xenogere[dot]com — by December 30.

By the way, if you want to be sure not to miss Festival deadlines and new editions, consider subscribing to the coordinating blog via email. We’re also on Twitter now, and of course the blog has an RSS feed, but nothing beats an emailed reminder.