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Friday, January 14, 2011

Bull Run Beech Art

I have a love of Beech tree messages, convinced as I am that, usually, they do not damage the long-term health of a beech tree, much as scarification on humans.  I have defended the practice in the blog entry, Beech Art.  When I went to look up the entry, I see that, unbelievably, it was written on January 15, one year ago.  There must be something about winter that shows beech tree writing at its best.
Perhaps it is just that there is no under story of greenery to hide the long-ago written messages or maybe it is because winter gives us a chance to look around and notice things that we were too busy to see in summer. Of course, there is always the option that is is merely coincidence but I think not. Whatever the reason, here I sit, one day earlier, a year later, once again writing about those hand-carved messages that work best on the smooth surface of  Fagus sylvatica. 
Many carved messages are easy to read and understand such as the "J.M. 1975," above (maybe J.H.) or the carving, below: "PG + JB."  This one must have been written by someone newly in love or at least trying to impress a new romantic interest. It takes much time and patience to carve a display such as this one. I would love to know who PG and JB are and what they are doing today. They are most likely people who were teenagers before 1975 because the letters have spread out and healed more than those written close by on the trunk, that show the date, 1975.
It appears, from the carving seen below that "J" probably stood for a middle name and was the same person abbreviated as "RJB." Wouldn't you love to know what was originally carved in that heart.  Did RJB come back and obliterate a romantic message, or is it a complicated drawing that didn't age well.  There may even be a date there that would help me figure out who RJB was/is.   

 I am grateful to them and to any carver who foregoes using a period after each letter. While the period is grammatically correct and looks nice the first couple years, it soon expands along with the accompanying letters until they run together  as in the carving below. This one says "J.N." though I looks like it could be an "I NL" because the periods after the "J" and "N" have grown until they are part of the original letters. I think this particular message was written March 16, 1967. Click on the photo to see a larger view.         

The large word, below originally looked to me to be "HILL" but as I study the photograph, I think that It actually says "HELL."  If you look closely at the second letter, there is a bump in the middle and the bars at the top and bottom do not extend both ways across the vertical bar.  Why would anyone take so much time to write that? Accompanying that message, though written at different times  are "NLC" (maybe) and "C.H" written in 2009. Notice how clear the period is next to the C. I'll try to come back to it in a few years when it has joined the C to the H
One more carving from this tree is unreadable. Either it was poorly done, or the artist's hand slipped when carving or some other reason has caused these letters to lose all definition.
A couple more interesting carvings:

These carvings continue a long association that the beech tree has had with communication.
Before the invention of paper, beech wood was a common writing material.  The Germanic word, boc meant "beech" but also came to mean the written word. (book) This was true in many ancient languages where the word for beech wood came to be used for a book in any form.
I have saved for last, the very best design this old beech tree has to offer. 
This one seems to be natural though maybe some carver cut too deeply into the bark, hurting the tree. My advise, until someone convinces me otherwise, is to go ahead and carve a small message if you are so inspired, but keep it small enough that you don't damage the tree, making it unable to heal.  Never, never carve all the way around a tree or even continuously a quarter around the trunk so that you don't interrupt the trunk's ability to carry the nutrients needed for it to stay healthy and live long.
If you have any photos of Beech Art, send them to me telling me, generally, where the tree is located. I am interested and will try to post them in future blogs.
To see more Beech Tree Messages click on this link BEECH ART

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