Monday, April 16, 2012

tree hugging


It's spring just about everywhere in the northern hemisphere now and most of you are seeing new leaves. Since Halifax is more northerly our trees are still bare and even so there aren't many around here that look like these, but this morning I found myself thinking about copper beech trees, my favorites, and the first time I really noticed one. We lived in Providence at the time and had just moved to a new neighborhood where there were some very large houses a few blocks away from our small house.

One particularly large and very old place was set far back from the sidewalk and in front of it was a tree like none I'd ever noticed before. It was huge - at least 100 feet tall, much taller than the large house it sheltered, with a crown equally wide. The massive trunk, probably 10 feet around, pale gray and quite smooth had thick branches spreading from it not far above the grass. For someone as afraid of heights as me this one looked like a friendly tree to climb. I've learned since that they normally live about 200 years, although there are many much older. Furthermore, they don't begin to flower and bear fruit (in their case, nuts) until they're between 30-80 years old. I suspect the main reason they aren't more common in our cities is the fact they get so big.

Something that's especially wonderful about all trees is the fact that they're perfectly formed to allow the most light to reach every growing part of themselves. It would be a good thing if our towns and especially our cities were designed the same way. I don't mean we should live in tree houses, although that would be nice, but that we weren't subjected to so much darkness because of all the towering slabs made of concrete that shadow us.

I've been reading about ways of building and building codes that were in common practice until very recently. I'll tell you about next time. Meanwhile, enjoy the nice weather and new growth wherever you are.

Do you have a favorite tree? There's plenty of room in this one.

27 comments:

  1. I like Beech trees too. For some reason these are the trees I imagined as I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I love the smooth grey bark of these trees and as they mature I like the shape these trees take.

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  2. I don't believe these common around where I live. I'll have to check it out. I have such a reverence for trees. They are like people. They have all the characteristics of people when you think about it. Some tall, some short, fat, thin, sick, healthy, some lean and are crooked, some straight.
    I guess I have many favorites. I love the California coastal redwoods, and I live the live oak down in Texas hill country.
    The Elders tell me that the trees are the spirits of those that have left us as the soil is made from the bones, blood, hair and skin of the people, their spirits grow from the soil. I like thinking of living trees and plants in that way.


    Peace

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    1. They're not common around here either, although there must be a few in private gardens. There were a lot in RI once I started noticing.

      The California redwoods are amazing to witness and oak trees are just about as cool as copper beeches. I've never seen a live oak in person so I'll take your word for it. Yes, the tribal societies definitely knew a lot more about living in harmony with nature than our city planners do.

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  3. I have copper beach in my yard and enjoy their shade in the summer and the copper leaves in the winter.
    the Ol'Buzzard

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    1. You're very lucky. I always liked that their leaves don't fall in autumn but just get supplanted by new ones each spring.

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  4. I love the black poplas in the local nature reserve and the Golden Rain Tree in our garden

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    1. I like black poplars too but had to look up the Golden Rain Tree. It's beautiful.

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  5. Ents are the best, but since they're extinct, I must admit that this is a tough question. Nature vs. concrete & steel, I couldn't help but imagine a bunch of cost-benefit analyzing architectural firms crooning ♪ anything you can do I can do better ♫

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    1. Ents were cool, most city planners much less so.

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  6. I do remember a couple of ancient Oaks... both estimated to be over 350. One died in a windstorm... split through the middle. The other..met the same kind of fate several years later. you have sent me on a mission to the local historical society to search for photos... I will share if I can find one.

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    1. Old oak trees are favorites too. If you find pictures of either of those I'd love to see them.

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  7. I love all trees though I must admit my favourtie at this very moment is our magnolia, just starting to bloom. Living in the rainforest we get BIG trees, sometimes to the detriment of having enough sun in our yards for a vegetable garden and losing views.

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    1. One of my favorite west coast trees (at least in Portland) were the star magnolias. I remember an especially large and beautiful one on the university hospital campus that was removed so another building could be erected. I do sympathize with your too much shade problem.

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  8. As you celebrate Spring, I am over the moon with our first rain in months, the drought finally over :)

    And as for hugging trees, I love the embrace and the nurturing wisdom of bark...

    ♥♥♥

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    1. It must be interesting to experience all the seasons but without the intense cold of Winter.

      For all they give us we really should be nicer to trees.

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  9. Whenever I hear copper beeches, I think of one of my favorite Sherlock Holmes mysteries. It has a mastiff, a haircut and an electric blue dress.

    I love the dogwoods that do best in the shade of tall pines. They have this haphazard horizontal growth pattern that makes me happy.

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    1. "It is my belief, Watson, founded upon my experience, that the lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside." It's a good one.

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    2. That's my favorite line from it, too.

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  10. Several years ago we stopped in a favorite park in the Blue Ridge for a hike. We had no sooner passed the first stile when I saw that an old friend of mine, a great oak that had grown all on one side due to the harsh conditions, was down, finally shattered at the big hollow base. The rest of my family knew to leave me alone while they continued on to the next stopping point in the familiar hike. I sat among the fallen branches, with my hands touching different parts of the tree, browned leaves and acorn caps mute on every twig. I could hardly breathe for the immediate grief, simpler than the grief I feel in recent years at the loss of my father, and so more accessible. Most of my feelings are deferred, the stronger and more complex, the more days or months until I get the message. The loss of my father has been like finding my way through caves miles under ground. This was clear, simple, and strong, like a cup of hot red tea.

    I have mourned the loss of other trees, particularly the loss of a grove of white birches when I was a teen. They had lost their lives to a bulldozer and my fury over that lasted for weeks.

    And I have so many trees that I greet with a laugh, or with a long touch. I made two new friends this last weekend, at Biltmore manor in Asheville, NC. There I discovered a tall, young Metasequoia glyptostroboides (dawn redwood) - a species believed to be extinct until discovered in a single small part of the mountains of China, and a backpack of seeds was smuggled out just before the Communists closed that country for decades. I stood respectfully on the grass, unwilling to step into the thick mayapples growing at its feet, but I longed to stand next to it and put my palm flat against it. I let that longing stretch into a smile on my face, the pull in my heart making me feel peculiarly alive and well. I looked around for the ginkgo which I felt sure would be nearby - so many gardens gifted with one of those rare seeds from China also planted the other oldest known tree species near it, or vice versa. Sure enough there was an enormous one a few hundred feet away. This one had only grass and mulch beneath, and I caressed and hung from its big limbs and laughed out loud.

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  11. Knowing we won't see its like again in that particular setting, makes the death of a venerable old tree all the more melancholy. I well remember how sad it was when most the great elm trees around Toronto died within just a few years. Suddenly, streets that had always been sheltered by them were bare. Trees that are resistant to Dutch elm disease have been developed but they'll never likely grow as tall as the others.

    I had to go and look at pictures of the dawn redwoods you mentioned and I can well understand your desire to step inside the undergrowth to feel its trunk. It's interesting that groves of them in China had been tended by Buddhist monks. There's a beautiful park in Providence that has examples of mature trees from many places in the world - among them were some lovely ginkgos.

    I'm delighted you came by to vist.

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  12. I grew up in the midst of the dying elm trees of Toronto, which you have mentioned. I fear even in our western cities we will experience a similar loss, despite care-full attention to our elms.

    Here on the prairies we have wonderful pines and spruces. But I miss the red-leaved oaks and maples of Ontario.

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    1. I grew up some miles north of Toronto in a place close enough now to be a suburb. It was very sad to see those magnificent trees die in place; now climate change is threatening many other species, including the ash and maples.

      I was surprised last year when I first saw just how many beautiful trees grow around Halifax. I wasn't expecting there to be so many.

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  13. One of my favorite trees is a very old Magnolia Tripetala, or Umbrella Magnolia, in the yard overlooking Emily Dickinson's garden in Amherst, Massachusetts. I've taken countless photos of it in various seasons over the years and yet it was only a few days ago when I was there, that I took particular notice of its trunk.

    The lumps, bumps and textures both of bark and where bark was missing was somewhat like looking at clouds and finding pictures. A tree trunk, however, reveals some very different and more mysterious images than clouds.

    I will send you the photo album for the series.

    Sending love and good vibes,
    Gina

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    1. We bought our house near Providence in winter and one of the best surprises in our garden the following spring was seeing the young Umbrella Magnolia come into bloom. I was amazed at the size of the leaves and the flowers. Unfortunately, I never really noticed the trunk, but then again the tree was less than 8 ft tall while we lived there. I'd love to see your new pictures from Emily Dickinson's house.
      much love xoxo

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  14. That's a beautiful beech. My favorite European beech was cut down to make way for a parking garage, which is as ugly as the tree was beautiful. I don't mind admitting that I cried to see it in chunks, being loaded onto trucks for disposal.

    I'm partial to large trees, and photograph them every chance I get (I have some shots in the box as I type this, and will try to get them up soon.)

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    1. Yes, this one is beautiful and it looks as though there's a sister tree across the way who is equally lovely.

      That was a sad story and all too typical. Big trees are very special and it's unfortunate more people don't recognize that.

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