Six years ago a first-time visitor to Balsamea — call him Schmoe — looked at a young beech tree in the yard (then just a campsite) and asked, “What’s that doing there?”
This is the tree Schmoe asked about. At the time it was about half this size.
His tone seemed to imply that there was something wrong with it being there — or something wrong with me for having it there.
I told him it was a beech tree that I saved when I cleared all the other original trees from that little part of the forest. (This was during my Thoreauvian Experiment, living off-grid in a 100 square foot camper for two years, with a dog, before Balsamea grew a house in 2010. I had cleared only a small space in the woods, less than a tenth of an acre.)
Other examples of American Beech:
I kept that tree because it had a nice shape, as opposed to so many other trees growing scraggly in our dense, competitive woods. When allowed to grow in the open, beeches have a beautiful shape and make terrific shade trees and climbing trees, and they produce spectacular autumn colors that last long after all the maples go bare.
When clearing space, I kept a lot of trees that were in bad shape, too. I nursed them along and they are wonderful now. In truth they were always wonderful. I just imposed my aesthetic notions on them, with the help of lopping shears.
Before I got to tell Schmoe why I kept that beech tree, or why I liked it, he added, “It’s a junk tree. They get that bark rust.”
The “bark rust” starts with an insect infestation which causes a fungal infection. Other than this bark condition, everything about this big old beach (one of our tallest) seems normal, and has been this way for at least 9 years that I know of.
What is it about a situation like this that seems to
put something like vacuum pressure on the soul?
The situation, the experience, the moment, not the picture. The picture is a good reminder of what it was like, but as pictures go, it’s just an interesting snapshot of an arboreal skyscraper (I’ll keep the copyright just the same, thanks). The picture is also a reminder to keep looking up for scenery too often missed.
Backed by a twilight sky and the moon, the beech tree showed up at roadside at the end of a late afternoon’s short hike in a massive new parcel of state land enveloping Ellenburg Mountain in Ellenburg, NY.
Below are a few other things entertaining me that day in the woods, where boredom is impossible, mood problems go into remission, and from which bio-psycho-social health benefits continue into the future. Yes, there are social health benefits even if you’re out there alone. Think about it.
Deep in the woods there is a great way to ensure that you get fantastic wildlife photography opportunities. Leave your camera home.
I’ve said before that our deer population is too high, and this year more than ever. Among the family here, there is one deer that has learned that Buddy and I are harmless. Harmless enough that in the woods he lets us come close enough and stay long enough to discuss life. The deer doesn’t say much, but he seems to be interested in what I say. Stupid things humans say to wild animals.
Keep in mind that Balsamea is densely forested, surrounded by forest on all sides, and many miles of it, with a smattering of houses. Our deer have not acclimated to people by their suburban gardens. Deer at Balsamea are wild. As they should be. Just one of them is getting too familiar with us since mid-summer.
During a slow sylvan saunter, if I stand still more than move, in bodily senses and in palpable transcendent essences I find reminders that nature made me to thrive among immortal woodland spirits, in refuge from the illusory blessings of merely mortal society. I cannot exceed the company of trees, nor regret deep solitude among them.
Each phase of nature, while not invisible, is yet not too distinct and obtrusive. It is there to be found when we look for it, but not demanding our attention. It is like a silent but sympathizing companion in whose company we retain most of the advantages of solitude … — Henry David Thoreau, Journal, November 8, 1858
Several species and forms of Balsamean herald the advent of Spring earlier than all others. They remind us of the unmerited gift of the life we have at Balsamea, and to live it consciously. Continue reading →
Since Balsamea is named for its abundance of native “Christmas Trees;” i.e., balsam fir (Abies balsamea), the least we can do is share this information, in the spirit of the season. I hope you do not encounter the Christmas Tree Worm while bedecking your solstice arborescence. If you do, please don’t eat it. Release it back into the wild.
I went to a wedding where a little boy carried the rings up the aisle on a fancy pillow. As he walked along, he growled loudly like an animal. When asked why he growled, he said, “I’m the ring bear!”
I am thankful for Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, the National Public Radio news quiz show, where I heard this ring bear joke, and where, unless your sense of humor is badly broken, I guarantee you plenty of smiles, snickers, chuckles and laughs during each one-hour show.
It’s Thanksgiving weekend, so I felt obligated to say at least something about being thankful. Blogger duty called.
A bit more seriously: I asked myself earlier this week what I was most thankful for. Instantly, without thinking even one second about it, my mind, such as it is, went immediately straight to …
Cameras capture only a small fraction of the beauty in nature (especially my cheap Fuji). The autumn mix of banana yellow, toasted golden russet and pale lime green colors of American beech trees (Fagus grandifolia) often truly dazzle me.
Looking east across the north half of our front yard, October 11, 2013. Click for much larger image.
When in doubt, have a campfire. It has straightened my bent condition many times.
Yours truly tending a winter campfire at Balsamea in 2005
My favorite passage from the 1908 short story, To Build a Fire by Jack London (1876-1916):
“Working carefully from a small beginning, he soon had a roaring fire, over which he thawed the ice from his face and in the protection of which he ate his biscuits. For the moment the cold of space was outwitted. The dog took satisfaction in the fire, stretching out close enough for warmth and far enough away to escape being singed. When the man was finished, he filled his pipe and took his comfortable time over a smoke. Then he pulled on his mittens, settled the ear flaps of his cap firmly about his ears, and took the creek trail up the left fork.” Continue reading →
The word biophilia is useful in communication about the biological, philosophical and psychological relationships between people and Nature. Contemplation of the word’s meanings and uses may encourage people to explore their own biophilic tendencies and those of others. Continue reading →