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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Textures and Shapes

Shape and texture make our lives more interesting.  We want our homes to be decorated with different shapes and textures.  The ultimate in shapes and textures may be found in the woods.  Trees give us most of this, more so in woods rather than the forest. 

What is the difference? Technically, there might not be a difference, but to me, the forest is a larger tract of trees not usually broken up by clearings, hay fields, gas lines, power lines and numerous roads.  Woods gain their character from these same things.  Woods are easily accessible though parts must be reached on foot.  Sometimes the woods may be only part an acre of trees that have escaped the axe or bulldozer. 

In the woods, trees have a chance to spread out in some places, grow tall and branchless in others.  Woods are not usually well managed, often shaped as much by chance as by any human plan. 

Chance  wraps honeysuckle vines around the trunks of saplings, strangeling many of them, but allowing some to mature, deformed, yet growing in girth until the atached vine can breaks.

  Chance breaks tops off of some trees in storms, or allows two trunks to grow side by side like cojoined twins growing together until sometimes they appear as one.

None of this would be allowed to happen a polite well-managed forest.  One of the things I love about the woods is that a cherry tree may grow next to a sugar maple.  A thorny locust may grow next to a stately oak. 
The woods are like America, full of trees of every color and use.  One tree may have a bark or needles that makes great mulch.  Another might be used to make syrup or dining room tables,  Still another has wood hard enough to make tool handles. 
When I'm walking through them, though, I don't usually think of that.  During my narcissistic journeys through the woods I am only concerned about the type of shade a tree produces, or if it's branches hide a bird's nest. Will it scratch me as I pass? How did it get that shape.  How many people have written their names in the bark? 
There is an old  beech tree on our hill that says, "Chip + Pappy"  That was written long before I was introduced to those woods.  I know "Chip" and, for a couple years, I knew his grandfather, "Pappy." It's comforting to picture them in these woods, together, taking time for one of them to write their names in the bark.  I believe that most name carving does not  do long-term damage to a beech tree, perhaps no more than a cut hurts me. I have seen several trees with names that were carved more than forth years ago.
Near Hinton, West Virginia is a beech tree covered with names.  I was told that a naturalist studied it and felt that it may be over 200 years old, a solitary "old growth" tree that was protected from the saw while the trees around it were felled.  I know there are names on that tree as old as I am.

Another great thing about Beech trees is their leaves.  While the leaves are fine holding fast to a tree, They reach their full splendor in autumn when they have changed to golden yellow and have fallen to the ground.  The leaves from a large beech may last all winter, thick upon the ground.  These two photos were taken Christmas morning during my First Annual Christmas Walk.

The Christmas morning walk gave me time to observe the great variety of shapes and designs in the woods and surrounding fields.

This honeysuckle vine twists delicately around the young tree like an embrace though the tree has already begun to break free of its hold.

We don't have many large pines left in this part of the woods,  I love how its bark is so different from the diciduous trees.

The tangle of grape vines and honeysuckle appear like super-magnified dreadlocks

I couldn't resist this patch of grass.

Even the hay field joined in with S curves accentuated by the snow.

The snow was smooth when I left after feeding the birds.  A couple handfuls of sunflower seeds landed on the snow's surface.
Are these hieroglyphics or Mayan symbols?

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