Monday, January 19, 2009

The Naked Trees


Do trees feel naked in the winter? Maybe.

Among all the past lives I may have lived, I'm pretty sure I was an oak tree. A valley oak (Quercus lobata) to be exact.

I love looking at the bare trees in winter. They show a character and essence which is not available when they are fully clothed with leaves. I can see their skeletons, their raw shapes, and their subtle nuances.

They are beauty.
They are grace.
They are gnarled.
They are bones.


These trees are perched on a hill side near my house. I admire their dark silhouettes which stand out in contrast against the clear sky behind them. They both show a symmetry and balance in their form. This lone pair of blue oaks (Quercus douglasii) watches over me and the kids while we walk in the stroller. Both kids load up in winter with their double layer jackets, hats, and a blanket. They snuggle in tight while I huff along, sweating and pushing them up the hills. We always talk about the things we see.

We walk the back road looking, listening, feeling. Where the old giants hang over the road, we gaze up at their massif limbs and wonder at their strength. Then we look at the dead branches on the ground, as even the mighty fall at some point. We inspect the downed limbs for acorn woodpecker holes, galls, and other signs of life. Some pieces are rotting with fungus who's mycelium laces it's way through the bark, the white thread are spreading out in search of food. What looks like dirt on the ground is really decomposing tree. The circle goes round and round.

Colonies of acorn woodpeckers are raucous, even in winter, and the kids can spot them flittering around the bare and open tree tops. They drill thousands of holes in the trunks of the trees in which they stash their acorns. In the winter, their cashes are readily visible where bullet-like holes wind their way up the trunk of the oaks.

Also from the stark branches above, we look at the dangling Spanish moss which hangs like grass stained laundry. In the winter you can really see how extensive the gray-green moss has invaded the trees, it is not native.

Further on our walk we observe the western sycamore trees (Platanus racemosa) that line the creeks, showing their peeling trunks and delicate tops. They guard the waterway dressed in their white uniforms but have crooked arms and awkward legs, kind of like an army of broken soldiers, hurt but unwaivering.


Finally, there are the favorite winter perch sites for the turkey vultures in our valley. I have seen over a dozen birds sitting on this tree with their huge wings spread fully wide. They turn their bodies perpendicular to the sun to warm their wings and dry out their feathers after rough weather. The sight of these huge birds delicately holding their arms out in perfect stillness is awe inspiring.

They love the naked trees too. They always come back to roost every year on this exact one.


One of my favorite Blogs, Red Pine Mountain, has been participating in a writing workshop and put this assignment up for her followers to participate in. I asked her if I could borrow it too since I liked it so much. She kindly said yes.

Red said, "I had my first assignment today from my short story writing class. I thought I'd share it with you and I'd love to see what you'll write."

The assignment: Write a Short Story in Six Words

Red's story:

"Black ice, tires squeal, crimson drifts."

If I were to summarize my love of trees it would go like this:

Ancient trees, honestly giving, naturally beautiful.

What would you write if you were to do a six word story about something you love?
No pressure here bloggers...this is just for fun.

10 Comments for OSL:

Yaya said...

I'm so jealous!!!!!

Those pictures are beautiful! I can't believe this is all in your backyard!!!

Grand Pooba said...

Oh no, I feel like I'm in my Poetry 101 class and everyone is waiting for me to say something brilliant to the professor. Oh crap, here goes.

The words of Homer Simpson - Doh!

Ok, now everyone is laughing at me.

Seriously though, Can I come live with you? I don't take up much space, well, thats a lie but I won't eat much. Promise!

Madhu said...

Pectures are very beautiful,

Yaya is really Jealous,

Julia said...

Pooba-YOU ARE A GAMER!! It would be a squeeze but sure, move on in.

Madhu-Thanks!

Michele said...

Gorgeous! Love your descriptive writing!

Amanda said...

Beautiful, I love the trees when they are naked, and I love them when they just start to bud out!

kjamama said...

What beautiful pictures!!! You're such a talented writer....

stan said...

I alwys enjoy views of bare trees agast blue skies! U have captured them well!

Michelle said...

I love the pictures. Trees show so much personality and history. There is so much to be learned from a tree. When you get a chance stop by my place. I have something there for you. Happy Friday!

Mountain Woman said...

huge paws, loud bark, bravest heart

That about sums it up for me.