Archive for April 9th, 2011

Photohunt: Trees

I have a dilemma every time I post for the Photohunt.   On the one hand, the implication of this meme is that you find The One image in your collection, or to go and capture a fresh image and post it.   On the other hand, on a regular basis I also feel that the single word has more than one definition and I want to play the game of illustrating them, or even contrasting to them.    There are people participating in this Saturday morning game who use it as an opportunity to tell an ongoing story, and those blogs are always fun to visit.

I’m always impressed by the imaginations being displayed, and frequently amused as well.  I always look forward to the cat’s perspective of the topics as well.   It is amazing how easy it is to find humor embodied in a being that takes itself as seriously as the average feline does, especially when they do such very silly things.

Anyway, this week I decided that for once I would limit myself to one image . .

. . . and immediately found myself regretting leaving out the other one I was considering.

How contrary.

See, there’s this story I’ve been meaning to tell, about the ice storm and the aftermath and the years-long process of change and recovery that has been going on in the local forests (which you can’t see for the trees).    If you followed the first link, visualize our yard as it looked after the ice storm, and apply that to thousands of acres of forest.

Walking through the woods became an exercise in climb over duck under trudge around.  The poison ivy, virginia creeper, honeysuckle and grape vines found the tangle of branches much to their liking as trellising systems, making the job of looking for cattle or walking fenceline or simple birdwatching even more treacherous.  It has been four years and right now the fungus is going ariot out there, breaking down all that cellulose into soil components again.   When I go out in the woods, I note the large quantity of widow-makers that are still enwrapped in the trees that embrace them, all their potential energy still stored for their inevitable fall (hopefully not on me).

Anyway, out in the Dept. of Conservation area where I walk Ruby there was a large white oak very similar to the one in the shot above which succumbed to the ice storm.   The tons of ice that accumulated on them never broke that stubborn sturdy tree’s limbs, it was its roots that pulled free of the sodden, unfrozen ground.  The accumulated weight of its canopy and the ice that encrusted it flung it down so violently that some of the side limbs penetrated over 4 feet into the ground.

The following spring, there was one high branch that had not gotten the message that the tree was dead.   There were a couple of roots that had not broken completely, and I guess they were able to provide enough sustenance for that one branch to leaf out one more time.   But that was the last gasp.  During the intervening years, wind and weather and fungus have started to remove the smaller twigs from the detereiorating hulk of the once mighty oak.

This photo only does partial justice to the complex ecosystem that this tree has become.

It is easy to perceive this tree as a derelict, something that is cluttering up the once “clean” grassland.  But part of the reason it now looks so untidy is precisely the evidence of the thriving ecosystem it has become.   Under the branches and trunk of the rotting tree is a tangle of blackberry canes, planted there by the birds that used the branches as lookout posts.   Needless to say, blackberries are not the only thing the birds planted, and in the photo above you can make out a mist of green that is the new leaves clothing a small tree that has taken root there.  The trunk has developed gaping holes, and I have seen squirrels running in and out of them as well as flickers excavating the ants from them.   There are chipmunks, mice, and meadow voles using the cover of the blackberries to protect themselves from the hawks and owls.   All winter long, I can see the trails of possums, skunks, and raccoons as they make their way to and from the condo that this downed tree provides for them.   An occasional fox and coyote pass through, just to make sure that none of the animals that live in and around and under this tree gets too insouciant.

A couple of summers ago a wood chuck excavated and improved the holes around the roots and took up residence there.   Maybe it was too far from water for his taste, but at any rate he moved on the following summer.   Now a skunk lives in that tunnel, probably sharing it with the occasional snake or toad.

All of this makes it hard for me to see this dead tree as derelict.

I guess that about covers my photohunt musings for today.   Other photohunters can be found here.


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