The sound of one tree falling

I love taking pictures of trees, most often in autumn and winter.  Watching leaves turn a glorious riot of color before they drop to the ground is a gift I never tire of. But there’s something even more compelling when they’re gone, and every knot on every tree trunk, every crooked limb, shows itself.  Until snow comes, there’s no hiding from a sense of feeling exposed.

A few years back, we had a surprise snowstorm on Halloween.  Tree branches snapped. Entire trees toppled, this one across my driveway in the middle of the night.  Nature has her own way of pruning. I didn’t hear a thing.

Gardeners have their way of pruning, too, and I marvel at the precision with which a tree is taken down.  It takes a certain kind of fearlessness (coupled with skill) to be up in a tree, sawing away while helpers are on the ground, directing a branch with ropes.  The saw makes for a very grating noise, yes; then comes the thud.

The view from my kitchen deck is even more open now that the gorgeous ash tree I’ve photographed more than once over the years is gone. I take no credit for the way the light just happened to hit it on a day in late August. Even more mysterious is how turning it into my iPad wallpaper forever gave it a screenshot date. The original photograph is missing and I made a point of capturing newer images of that favorite tree, even if they don’t quite measure up. Maybe there’s a message here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These days have me hearing trees falling, groaning under the weight of a planet in distress. I spend a lot of time trying to reassure my daughter that all is not lost. Things change. The profit motive (not to mention the vindictive behavior of the psychopath-in- chief) that underscores all that’s being done to undermine the environmental progress we’ve made will give way to a stronger, sounder resistance.

A landscape filled with trees is riddled with metaphor. Light bends leaves, deep, sinewy roots are what keep a tree standing.

Look hard enough and you see trees doing things.

Leaning on one another. . .

Or looking more and more like the terrain in Stranger Things.

This morning was filled with mist and the chill of missing sunshine, neither of which keeps me from walking.

 

On the way back I decided it was time to take a photo or two of the space left by the majestic ash—which calls to mind a parable as wise as it is touching.  Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree takes a boy from innocence to old age in his relationship to a tree who (physically and metaphorically) gives pieces of herself in response to his needs. He swings from her branches, sleeps in her shade; she lets him cut branches when he needs to build a house and her trunk when he wants a boat in which to sail away.  In the end, when he’s old and tired and simply wants a place to sit and rest, she invites him to do just that on all that’s left of her.

Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point to one more tree, dreamlike in its artfulness, that gets pride of place on the redesigned Home page of my website. Please take a peek if you haven’t already. Then consider the serendipity that brought me this Counting Crows cover of a Joni Mitchell song with these words:

They took all the trees
and put ’em in a tree museum
And they charged the people
A dollar and a half to see ’em 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mother Nature

SomethingSara copyAs I sit in my currently 90 degree apartment, unable to control the temperature even with a wall A/C unit that apparently stops functioning properly when the weather outside goes above 80 degrees, I think about how little control we have as humans. Just watch any documentary about global warming and all the disaster that weather will wreak on Earth if we don’t act soon enough . . . it kind of seems like those images are coming to life on the news right now. Wildfires scorching San Diego, snow in Colorado in May, “worst ever” floods in Bosnia and Serbia—is this the beginning of the end?wildfire

Weather is SO much bigger than us. We try to do everything we can to protect ourselves, our lives, our buildings, our property from it and it just ain’t a force to be reckoned with.   I value every drop of water I drink or that cleanses my body in this Dust Bowl-like, multiyear drought. I recycle everything that I can, I buy sustainable vegetables and meat, and it all just doesn’t feel like enough.

Living in California is so rad because there are so many different climates to experience. I chose one extreme for a road trip to Death Valley with my mom on Mother’s Day weekend. Not having cell phone service for almost 24 hours really puts things in perspective. Driving through arid and windy terrain makes you realize that no matter what we do, or what we try to control, the Earth is still going to go on with or without us. Unless an asteroid hits us (but even still, that only stopped the dinosaurs!). Seriously, stopping global warming isn’t just for the Earth, it’s about our survival as a species.

The basin of Death Valley has the look and feel of a dried-out sea. But despite “drying out” it’s still there, salt flats and all, a reminder that the earth is ever-changing and ever-evolving. Death Valley 2 Not being able to control Mother Nature doesn’t stop me from wanting to experience it.   There’s just something about seeing natural wonders (driving by them or climbing through them) that really humbles you—from the Grand Canyon to Niagara Falls. You get to see first-hand how these places have evolved and adapted and will continue to do so. I’m currently reading a book about climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, which would scare a lot of people and is quite scary, but I have to do it; even if it means I might get trampled to death by elephants, that’s got to be at least a fast way to die, right?

Speaking of being scared, try driving through a sandstorm, which is exactly what happened on our way back to L.A. from Death Valley. Sand and dirt and wind do very nasty things to a car. It hurts even more when it’s a brand-new one. The lesson? Something goes wrong in our day to ruin it and we’re not happy anymore (like having to replace your windshield due to said sandstorm). Something goes wrong with Mother Earth and she humbles us with her resilience. She also reminds us, again and again, of how little is really in our control. Death Valley 1