11.17.2006,12:49 PM
Kingdom of the Possums - Part 3
Paths lead everywhere; through the woods, to the ledges overlooking the lake, down to the cove and water.....

Harsh brown and weather-worn trees with spiking branches and shaggy ragged bark contrasted against soft colors and shapes. Some of these trees reminded me of old sentinals of the forest. They are the old-timers that watch over the green vigorously growing shrubs underneath them, their naked branches hovering over them as if to protect them as seasons and decades pass. They are the Old Men of the Forest, these trees. They see life and death parade before them, even as they succumb to death themselves.

Trees such as these are what drew me to live in the woods of Maine with its deciduous and conifer trees, so many species of them, and I had to learn them all as a forester. But nothing prepared me for the magnificence of the Doug Fir in the Pacific Northwest. They were skyscrapers with their heavy filagree branches tens of feet long, bowing to welcome any living thing that passes near them. I remember listening to them whisper outside my second story bedroom window when the wind off the coast floated over the mountain range and into the valley that I called home. My bedroom was my tree house next to the Doug Fir surrounding my house and ranch.

Moving to Texas, I felt naked without all the big trees I have known and loved. I missed them. But over the years I have discovered the endearing qualities of the Texas trees and shrubs. And now I expand upon that on my rides to hike and camp among them.

A dead tree with burls caught my eye. I haven't seen any in many years. Burls are created by cancerous cells; cells whose internal regulatory mechanisms have gone awry. They proliferate quickly and massively with little organization to form these tumors frozen in time as wood. This very disease imparts the intriguing swirls and patterns in the wood that are coveted by many woodcrafters.

After several hours, hunger drove me back to the campsite, I set up the tent and threw in sleeping gear.

Then I unloaded the side cases to access food and cooking gear. The new single burner fit easily onto the small butane cylinder and a fire sprang forth ready to cook some food. I emptied the stew I brought with me into the new aluminum fry pan and soon had hot stew to eat and sip while reading at the table. With Bernard guarding the table and dinner, all was well.

After dinner I went down to sit on a ledge overlooking the lake to watch the sun, wherever it was, sink down in the west. Picking out the spots of color along the shoreline, I enjoyed the muted but welcomed fall colors in northern Texas. And I especially enjoy it all in a lake environment.

Spending several decades in New England states, few places can compare to the fall fiesta of brilliant hues and shades of colorful fall foliage. But like a man gorged with Thanksgiving dinner and too full to want dessert, the endless color can overwhelm the senses unless you’re a starving man. In fact, we become desensitized to it after a week or so and the subsequent changes are imperceptible to us until the trees are nearly naked of any leaves. Only when snow falls on the branches and ground are we aware again of our wooden bretheren.

Here, the spatterings of color are localized and sparse enough that each tree or bush of color stands alone, glaringly contrasted next to its neighbors of green or the pale prairie grass below. Each colored subject becomes its own solo picture, a soliloquy in color and commanding your attention as it shows off all its glory. You are drawn to each detail of the tree or shrub as if it was a single actor on a stage. And a personal appreciation blossoms in your perceptions.

I looked long at each colored tree and shrub I found, examining the shades and textures, the contrast with its neighbors. In this way, they were all individuals with their crown of glory. Move this way and it looked new when viewed next to a neighboring tree; look that way and it was different because of the angle and each single feature obvious rather than lost in a crowd of glory.

Even when riding, the individual and small groups of color grabbed my attention, blazing quietly against the reddish-brown and gray stratos of the cliffs. I wondered what it would all look like under sunshine.

To be continued.....


posted by Macrobe
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