Good Again and Again

Human minds cling to negatives more than positives.  This helps us prepare for the next time a negative comes around, and lets us experience a positive anew again, unprepared for the pleasure.

Every year I marvel as in childhood, uplifted a little out of myself, as if it were my first time walking in the woods at night during the first accumulating snow of the season.

The Junk Tree (Fagus grandifolia)

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?”

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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:

Beech 03 change begins 2     Beech 05 leaves green 1

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.”

Beech 27 Bark Rust 477x230

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.

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Early May Late Day in the Woods

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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.

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How to mix deer, campfire, tin foil stew, dog, photography and grace

oscar-deer-20140906e-notxtDeep 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.

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A Meditation on the Company of Trees, Aided by Forest Nymphs

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

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Celebrating Ice Storm Tree Arcs at Balsamea

ARC: a part of the circumference of a circle or other curve
… and sometimes much more than that, or inspiring it

The ice storm of December 21-23, 2013 bent many trees at Balsamea.  Here are some examples, and thoughts about trees …

This clip from the top of a poplar tree is one of my favorites.  I’m not sure why.  Maybe it’s the sky.

Ice-Storm-Arcs-00-Poplar-20131224

I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says “Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.” ― Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

For more beauty, inspiration and fun …   Continue reading

Watch out for Christmas Tree Worms (Spirobranchus giganteus)

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.
Photo credit: NOAA http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/xmas-tree.html

Photo credit: NOAA

If it matters, or you’re just curious … Continue reading

Bunchberry v Painted Trillium

In reply to a question in a comment by Waldo Tomosky on my previous post …

Question about the “bunchberries”: the leaves look like Trillium. Are bunchberries the fruit of Trillium?
Nice home you have built. I love the size. Just right. You must be in heaven.

If it ain’t heaven, it ought to be.     Continue reading

Being Thankful

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 …

(drumroll, please)

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American Beech in Autumn; Balsamea Style

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.

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Looking east across the north half of our front yard, October 11, 2013. Click for much larger image.

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Coming Home on a Forest Ghost Road

Coming-Home-coverpageIf you love the land, especially if you have family roots in a special place, read this heartwarming little article, Coming Home to Jadwin Forest by Gary Brown in the October 2013 issue of the New York State Conservationist, a magazine I enjoy and highly recommend.     Continue reading

Rivers

Like addicts, in our weakness for the allure of rivers we risk everything to live on their banks.

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Photo 1: At the first official campsite created in the Saranac River Public Use Area of the Sable Highlands Conservation Easement, Goldsmith, NY

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To Build a Fire

When in doubt, have a campfire.  It has straightened my bent condition many times.

Balsamea Campfire 200512

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