A Year in the Life of a Tree

January 2016

January 2016

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Along the Colonial Parkway, between Williamsburg and Jamestown, grow a stand of white poplar trees.  They sway gracefully in the wind, like a group of school girls holding hands and dancing.  They mark one of our favorite spots along that part of the Parkway, and we often stop to admire them. 

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February 2015

February 2015

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Now in the depths of winter, with the world newly frozen and still, let’s watch the seasons come and go with these beautiful trees.

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March 2015

March 2015

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March 2015

March 2015

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April 2015

April 2015  An ancient Eastern Redbud, Cercis canadensis, blooms in the foreground. 

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May 2014

May 2014

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June 2014

June 2014

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“In a forest of a hundred thousand trees,

no two leaves are alike.

And no two journeys along the same path are alike.”


.

Paulo Coelho

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August 2014

August 2014

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October 2015

October 2015

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November 2015

November 2015

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November 2015

November 2015

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January 2014

January 2014

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Are there trees that you love?  Are there trees you re-visit month after month to watch the season change?

To learn more about these trees, visit please visit my post from March 2014, “White Poplar.”   And in parting, let us return to spring.  It won’t be much longer until our Poplars send out new buds once again.

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March 2015

March 2015

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“Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky.”


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Kahlil Gibran

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014-2016

Silent Sunday: Budding Trees

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“They say a person needs just three things

to be truly happy in this world:

someone to love, something to do,

and something to hope for.”
.

Tom Bodett

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“Joy is to fun what the deep sea is to a puddle.

It’s a feeling inside that can hardly be contained.”
.

Terry Pratchett

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“People from a planet without flowers

would think we must be mad with joy the whole time

to have such things about us.”
.

Iris Murdoch

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“The same stream of life

that runs through my veins night and day

runs through the world

and dances in rhythmic measures.

It is the same life that shoots in joy

through the dust of the earth in numberless blades of grass

and breaks into tumultuous waves of leaves and flowers.”


Rabindranath Tagore

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

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… To Preserve This Beautiful Planet …

Late February, 2015

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“I begin with nature today, which gives us so much, including the amazing opportunities for photography. Hence it must be our duty to preserve this beautiful  planet, in whatever small way we can in our own capacity.

This is the best gift we can give to our coming generations.”

Suyash Chopra

This morning, while looking at a series of photos Suyash recently published in black and white, I found this beautiful thought.  I resonate with Suyash’s understanding of photography as a sacred act, as a way to “preserve this beautiful planet, in whatever small way we can.”

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April, 2014

April, 2014

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Gardening allows me a very immediate and hands on opportunity to preserve the tiny bit of our planet’s ecosystem within our garden.  Planting for wildlife habitat, protecting the soil, increasing diversity, and using sustainable, organic practices all help to make this tiny garden lush, beautiful, and life sustaining for many species- including ourselves.

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Female Tiger Swallowtail on Lantana.  Lantana is the most visited plant in our garden by both butterflies and hummingbirds.

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But this is only a first effort.  Writing about it and sharing its beauty with others through photographs; nurturing friendships with other gardeners and building community, allows this harmonic to resonate around the planet. I am keenly interested in gardens from Portland Oregon and Conway Massachusetts to Queensland Australia; Greenville, South Carolina and Charlotte, North Carolina to Brussells, England, Puerto Rico and New Zealand.  Through reading about other gardener’s efforts, and seeing photos of their gardens in progress, I absorb their ideas, their passion, and their ecology.

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October, 2014

October, 2014

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Suyash invites us to enlarge the context of how we think about our own photography.  Reflecting on his words,  I’m reminded of photos, published nearly a century ago, documenting glaciers in our national parks.  Seeing those photos again, alongside current photos of the same topography, documents the profound changes to our planet in a tiny span of geologic time.

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September, 2010

Oregon coast, September, 2010

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Comparing my own photos taken on west coast beaches in 2010 with those taken this past fall demonstrates, with sickening clarity, the terrible loss of life along our coast.  Tidal pools filled to overflowing with starfish, sea urchins, mollusks and small fish in 2010 sit nearly empty today.

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September 2014

Oregon coast, September 2014

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While mussels and barnacles still thrive along these beaches, the starfish and sea urchins are nearly gone and the sea anemones reduced.  Our planet’s ocean harbors trash and toxic chemicals, petroleum, radioactivity, and acidity which turn great expanses of living ocean into watery desert.

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September 2014

September 2014

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Preserving the beauty of our quickly changing planet through our photographs, to share with later generations, somehow elevates photography from hobby to historic trust.  I had not really thought of my own photographs in quite this way until reading Suyash’s words today.

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August 2014 Virginia

Virginia, August 2014

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These photographs I take each day, recording our own garden and the changing of seasons in our greater community, serve a larger purpose.  They not only entertain, they document.  They share not only beauty, but also an aesthetic of beauty and vibrant organic life so important to our own well being.

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College Creek, Virginia, August 2014

College Creek, Virginia, August 2014

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As more of our planet sleeps under pavement and architecture, living soil buried beneath concrete and asphalt; those areas left to grow and support life shrink with each passing day.

Even in our own community we watch trees felled and marshes filled as developers try to turn a profit with new homes and commerce.  Where do animals go once their habitats are destroyed?  Who digs and moves the native plants?  The answers are all too clear, and too poignant to frame with words.

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And so the photos we take today, the photos our parents and grandparents took decades ago; serve to document the beauty of nature which remains.

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And perhaps they will inspire someone to value and nurture organic, life filled beauty in their own tiny bit of the planet.  Perhaps they will spark a memory of when mankind truly did inhabit ‘the garden.’

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“The more clearly we can focus our attention

on the wonders and realities of the universe about us,

the less taste we shall have for destruction.”
.

Rachel Carson

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“The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn”
.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Woodland Gnome 2015

The Beauty Left Behind

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Wind driven leaves filled the air like great golden snowflakes.  The air was soft and moist, unusually warm for a Virginia November.

And it was beginning to rain again.  The road and lawns, slick with new fallen leaves, glowed as golden as the forest in this muted noon time light.

 

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Great fronts of wind and rain, snow and ice rake across the country transforming the landscape.

The season has been rushed along its way.  No lingering, languid autumn this year. 

 

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No, the wind strips the leaves as they’re still turning and whips them through the air to their terrestrial demise.

You have to be out in it to fully appreciate the spectacle.

And we were.

 

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What could be more beautiful than driving through the golden showers of bright leaves flung against a low, grey sky?

And the world is transformed yet again; the finely crafted beauty left behind, revealed.

 

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Ivy and mistletoe, sculpted branches and mottled bark shine now that their leafy drape has blown away.  Tiny buds dot each branch.

 

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Silhouettes of vines, pods, fruits and berries etch fine figures against the sky.

 

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The forest’s canopy is  melting away, opening the woods once again.

Sunlight penetrates what was shaded since early summer.

 

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What was dense has opened; the hidden treasures of the forests revealed.

 

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This is our time to see down to the bones of things; to explore and discover the structure of the landscape.

Which trees harbor the nests of birds and squirrels?  Where might grapevines be found?

 

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And what tiny promises of spring might already be waiting along the woody limbs of trees and shrubs?

What beauty has been left behind by the cleansing winds?

 

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*

Words and Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

 

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Holiday Wreath Challenge 2014

Dissolution

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A messy season, fall, when you think of it. 

“Fall,” of course, refers to the countless leaves browning and blowing from every limb of every deciduous shrub and tree.

 

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The autumn winds sweep away every bit of what is tired, worn, and dying.

Of course, those same winds also pick up the downy seeds released by wildflowers.

 

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They catch the seed filled pine cones and scatter them far from the mother tree.

 

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Berries, seed pods, nuts and acorns all take flight on the wind, perhaps landing where they can thrust roots into moist and accepting soil, and grow.

 

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Like  monks sweeping away a completed Tibetan sand painting, nature has a hand in her own dissolution. 

 

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Vibrant greens gradually fade to reveal the essential golds and purples, scarlets and orange of the forest.

Then even these colors fade to brown and take flight, leaving only the structure of things behind.

 

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Bare branches glow beneath their accumulations of lichen and moss, vines and animal nests;  scars of lost branches and broken limbs revealed.

 

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And it is still beautiful.

All of the essential parts remain. 

 

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Wind and rain, insects and worms work their magic all winter long, transforming all that has fallen to the Earth into the rich medium of life.

 

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Dissolution, cleansing, transformation.

Stillness and rest.

 

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Making way for new growth.

 

 

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Words and Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

 

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White Poplar

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These trees, which have intrigued me for so long, are most likely Populus grandidentata, the White Poplar or American Aspen.

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Their light colored bark, graceful form, and shimmering foliage always catches my eye as we drive past them on the Colonial Parkway near Jamestown Island. 

Part of what makes them so striking is their grouping.  It is as though a seedling tree were planted on each point of a five pointed star.  This lovely group of five trees gives the impression of a group of five very tall chlidren dancing in a ring, hands clasped, and heads looking back and up at the sky.  When the wind blows through their branches  they are alive with movement.

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It has taken me months to learn their name, and I’m still not positive.  Now that the flowers have emerged, I’ve been able to sort through photos and information online to more closely identify them.

They definitely belong to the Populus genus, along with so many other light barked trees.  The Populus grandidentata, is also known as “Bigtooth Aspen” for the relatively large “teeth” along the edges of each leaf.  This species is native to the Northeastern United States, unlike the “Quaking Aspen” which is a native of Northern Europe and Asia.

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Preferring the more northern climate zones, these American Aspen trees are living on the very southern edge of their range.   They grow north into southern Canada, around Nova Scotia, and west to areas around the Great Lakes.

Of medium size, roughly to 80′, these trees are considered fast growing.  They demand full sun, but will tolerate a wide range of soil conditions.  They produce high quality, very straight grained timber.

Because these tress prefer full sun, they tend to colonize disturbed areas ahead of other species of tree.  They don’t do well growing up through an area already forested.

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They are also extremely beautiful, in all seasons.  We drove past them late in the afternoon, as the sun was low towards the horizon earlier this week.

The late afternoon sun caught and reflected in their newly emerged catkins, lightng these trees up like torches.  The catkins carry the pollen, but will also produce the seeds further into the summer.  The seeds will disperse on the wind.  A lively group of “children” grow across the road, in the edge of the treeline.

The American Aspen will also produce “clones” growing from their very shallow roots.  Should the tree be damaged in a storm, or perhaps cut, new trunks will sprout from the roots to create a stand of trees, identical to the parent.

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These trees are a relatively recent addition along the Colonial Parkway.  This stretch was completed in the 1950s, which makes it roughly 60 years old now.

This stand of American Aspens was most likely planted around this time.  These trees aren’t considered long-lived.  Although individuals may last a century, many experts say that individual trees go into decline at around 60 or 70 years.

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This stand is mature, but appears to be still very healthy and vibrant.  There is a sunken area in the center of this stand, where water collects when it rains.

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It makes me wonder whether perhaps a single tree once stood here, and this cluster has grown in its place.  Perhaps it was cut when the Parkway was built, and this group grew from its original roots.  It remains a mystery.

Perhaps someone reading this knows these trees, and perhaps can share what they know about them.  Until then, we’ll continue to stop and appreciate their beauty, and also to photograph them as the season progresses.

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Photos by Woodland Gnome  2014

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