Category Archives: trees

Snow, rocks, and stories.

I’m still in Colorado, a little longer than planned, because of a change in my airline ticket; I decided to rebook with a different airline for my return trip, to reduce the risk of being affected by the recent spate of flight cancellations and chaos at airports. My new reservation is for a later date.

The family here is happy to have me a couple more days, and I’m quite content to be pampered by the family generally, to have extended cuddling, reading and game time, and two outings I’d otherwise have missed. Plus, we watched the TinTin movie together tonight. Laddie and I sat together scrunched into a recliner, with the kitten Clyde occasionally jumping on the back and trying to get us to play.

It was an action packed film, of the sword fighting, metal crashing and body-flinging sort, and little Clara worried at times for the safety of Snowy and TinTin especially, but she was too brave to want to leave and go to bed.

The three boys are very fond of their collection of TinTin books, and enjoyed seeing favorite characters and story elements recombined in the movie. Last week, shortly after Kate arrived here, I found her animatedly reading the Spanish version of this rare tale of Tin Tin en el Congo to Raj, found on the shelf here. I don’t think I’ve ever read an entire story of TinTin from beginning to end, but all my children became fond of them over the years, and we have become a multigenerational TinTin fan club.

Yesterday I went with Soldier and the boys on one of their favorite short hikes, to the Siamese Twins rocks up the mountains from Colorado Springs. The boys have favorite places to scramble there, and I found plants my Seek app was able to identify: Colorado Pinon, Utah Juniper, and Rocky Mountain Juniper.

Rocky Mountain Juniper

Soldier pointed out to me that you can see Pikes Peak through the gap between the Twins.

We woke this morning to a new, thick blanket of snow, much more than had fallen last week. I actually helped Joy and Liam to shovel the driveway clear, and then Soldier and I took a nice walk up the hill where the trees are tall and thick.

In the afternoon Joy and I took the boys to the neighborhood hill that is most famous for good sledding. Brodie and I made a snowman, and all the boys hiked up and sledded down the several runs for a couple of hours. It was fun to watch them from a place under pines where scattered slushy drops blew down from the trees on to my head. When the sun went down along with the temperature, we went home and ate popcorn.

Every day we spend hours reading aloud, and the boys all read to themselves, too. When Brodie unwrapped Old Yeller on Christmas morning he started in right away and hasn’t stopped. Liam received several volumes in the Redwall series which he is devouring.

This anthology of Christmas stories from Plough, Home for Christmas, has blessed us immensely. Last night while others were cooking dinner, I read “The Christmas Lie,” and could barely finish for choking up. Joy read “The Empty Cup” aloud at the breakfast table this morning; it is a story about a particular “Rachel weeping for her children” at the time of Christ; the Rachel in the story did find comfort. I have also read to the children “The Guest” and “The Chess Player,” both of which are stories of hearts changed by divine Love, so that they can enter into “the Spirit of Christmas.”

In the collection are selections from Henry Van Dyke, Elizabeth Goudge, Madeleine L’Engle, and Pearl S. Buck, in addition to many writers I was not familiar with before. I haven’t read half of them yet, but every one has pleased.

Likely this is my last post from Colorado, this year. By the time I get back to this site, it will be 2023. Dear Readers and Friends: Happy New Year!

In Colorado, the stars above my bed.

Dark forms yearning upward.

VERTICAL

Perhaps the purpose
of leaves is to conceal
the verticality
of trees
which we notice
in December
as if for the first time:
row after row
of dark forms
yearning upwards.
And since we will be
horizontal ourselves
for so long,
let us now honor
the gods
of the vertical:
stalks of wheat
which to the ant
must seem as high
as these trees do to us,
silos and
telephone poles,
stalagmites
and skyscrapers.
but most of all
these winter oaks,
these soft-fleshed poplars,
this birch
whose bark is like
roughened skin
against which I lean
my chilled head,
not ready
to lie down.

– Linda Pastan

Birch Trees by Lahle Wolfe

A strange forest bathing.

I was surprised to become personally involved with the tree thinning work here at the lake.  My second morning here, after my sister had arrived to spend a day with me, we got a knock at the door from one of the leaders of the fire safety project here in our cabin community. She wanted to review with us the recommendations from the primary agency toward the goal of “fuel reduction” and of making us a “Firewise Community.”

Fifteen workers from outside have joined dozens of property owners in the effort. Weeks ago many of us cabin owners had begun to cut small trees on our own lots and haul them to the roads, to increase the efficiency of the work crews who would join us this week, consisting of two state conservation agencies and a tree service.

If I had known further in advance about this project, I would have timed my visit to avoid it, but now I am really happy it worked out this way. Normally I am the least involved of us siblings in everything regarding our cabin because I live at such a distance compared to them.

But after Nancy was handed a can of orange spray paint, she and I walked around the property to decide on and mark trees that could be easily sawed down by a couple of our fellow residents who were about that business. And we had a consult with the tree service guys about the beautiful tree that features in several of my photos over the years, that unfortunately is one of those that poses a great fire risk by snuggling up to one side of the house.

Until recently, lot owners in our little group of cabins were forbidden to cut trees even on our own property. The expectation was that eventually permission would be given on a case-by-case basis. For many years there has been controversy about how to manage national forests and disagreement among government agencies; increasingly people understand the need to minimize wildfire danger by reducing fuel in the form of crowded forests, dead trees, and thick underbrush.

It was decided that they would take down that tree, and within a few minutes it was lying on the ground and being de-limbed.

While the chain  sawyers were working in front of our cabin, the noise and the exhaust fumes pretty much overwhelmed the senses. The last minutes of our big tree’s life, it was trembling under the repeated shocks of the hammers against wedges that had been squeezed into the initial cut. Nancy and I were standing off to the side taking videos. Then, down it came, and after a while the tree cutters moved on, the fumes dissipated, but the cut trees continued exhaling the last breaths of their essence.

The workers must necessarily be housed and fed by the property owners during this week that they are helping us, and a feeling of camaraderie was palpable. Workers and residents alike, nearly all of us have ties going back generations to small Central Valley communities, and many had been infused with a love for the mountains and the land by our parents and grandparents.

Usually when I am up here, I meet one or two of the other “summer people,” and am frustrated because I never get to know them and often forget their names. Rarely am I around for a work day, and as I most often come in September I miss many of the people who have stopped using their cabin when school starts. This week was different, and I’ve had the chance to talk with people from all the four parts of the group that has formed for this short project.

One cabin up the road is the sort of work center for the crews, and every night whoever wants can join them to eat and sit around a campfire. While I was there for a few hours last night we were often chatting about the wildfires that even now are blazing in the foothills below here, where several cabin owners have their first homes. Cell phones were often used to check for updates, especially regarding the brother of one of our company, who sent a photo of  the dark smoke billowing just behind his house.

When by the light of my little flashlight I walked away from the  smell of the campfire and back to my cabin, I immediately entered an atmospheric bath composed of those aromatics I’d enjoyed in smaller doses earlier. It was some kind of therapeutic essential oil experience! My musings since have prompted me to read about just what makes that heady aroma, and I found an article about Forest Bathing, and speculation about how the chemicals in tree sap are good for you: Terpenes and Health.

The piney scent of the forest is intensified when hundreds of trees are cut down and fed to ravenous chipping machines. The molecules of tree begin to be released as soon as the logs and branches are pushed in, and after the chopped up tree is spat out at the other end of the chute, the emanations continue for hours and probably days.

The products of all this chipping are left in piles along the roads, and there were several of these tall mounds along my path home last night. This morning several more had been deposited along the road in front of my cabin. They won’t be there long; one resident has equipment to take the chips away, and we have plans for using them right here in our mountain neighborhood.

This afternoon the weather I’d been wishing for arrived: claps and booms of thunder woke me from a nap, and soon a downpour of rain was clattering on the roof. And through the window wafted another, more humid dose of piney medicine. This highlighted experience of the trees and their yummy healthfulness seems like it might be an added reason to get myself to the mountains more often in the future, and practice forest bathing. But I won’t be disappointed at all if the aromatics in my bath are from trees still alive, with their roots intact and their branches in the sky.

 

Greedy among the flowers — and fruit.

WHO CAN EXPLAIN WHY WE  LOVE IT (PICKING MULBERRIES)

Who can explain why we love it—West Lake is good.
The beautiful scene is without time,
Flying canopies chase each other,
Greedy to be among the flowers, drunk, with a jade cup.

Who can know I’m idle here, leaning on the rail.
Fragrant grass in slanting rays,
Fine mist on distant water,
One white egret flying from the Immortal Isle.

-Ouyang Xiu,  (1007 – 1072) China

I get the impression that this outing to West Lake is primarily a chance to get away from work. The poet enjoys being idle, and maybe he and his friends just happen to find mulberries to pick while they are enjoying their drink and exulting in the beauty of the day.

In any case, even the title of the poem is not about eating the mulberries — but the fruit itself is on my mind since I recently discovered dried white mulberries in the market, from Turkey. They are unlike any dried fruit I’ve ever eaten. Their extreme sweetness leads people to say that the flavor is honey-like; the chewiness of them is what I love most.

I read that nearly every village in Anatolia grows them, and the growers also make mulberry syrup, which I’d like to try as well. So I offer some photos that I found online. I also ran across a post, “White Mulberries,” from a  Turkish blog, and it contains the kind of information that is most interesting to me.

The site Tropical Fruit Trees shows photos of several varieties of Mulberry, by which I was able to see that the ones I’ve eaten dried are the “Persian White” type. They are the most cold hardy and grow in USDA zones 3b through 9. If I had twice as much land as I do, I would surely want to plant one of these trees. They attract birds, and produce lots of fruit, which means, plenty to dry. The leaves are not only the best food for silkworms, but make good livestock feed as well. Maybe one of my readers will be inspired to plant a Persian White!