Monday, December 03, 2018

Winter Treasures

The frozen land above the sky








Snow covered trees and heights

Pathway to higher places

Tracks in the snow


Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Reiterating: Lessons From the Trees

A couple of prosaic pieces I wrote some time ago, reflecting upon my relationship with wilderness.

Legacies of Endurance

I made a pilgrimage this weekend to the slopes of Mount Evans, to pay my respects to a grove of peculiar trees that inhabit that locale.

These the pines of a particular breed that choose to live their lives out, at forbidding lofty heights, where other species abjure. Fire and rain, wind and snow, all the elements combine to blast these enduring creatures without pity or respite.

Not the towering graceful beauties of the forest, these. The aged pines are twisted and gnarled into bizarre stunted gnomes. Battle scars from eons of withstanding the destructive forces of nature cover their flanks.

And yet they endure.

Some of the oldest patriarchs, clinging to life by the thinnest of threads, have witnessed the awesome pageant of an unimaginable span of ages, as time passed before them, hundreds upon hundreds of seasons spinning by, a thousand generations in the lifetime of men.

I consider these trees, with their stunning longevity. They do not complain about the travail or suffering, though many of them have obviously suffered greatly. They do not question their purpose, or falter in the mission -- to live, and keep on living. The trees endure, and do not ask why.

There is an incredible, priceless beauty in endurance. Perhaps it is beyond our understanding today. I feel certain that the trees possess this secret knowledge.

How long will it take us to learn?

Great and Small

Towering firs raise into the blazing blue,
their boughs reaching up in mighty supplication.
Framing the world across mountain tops and airy ridges,
seemingly, holding up the sky.

On forest floor below, humbly graced,
with lacy bracken ferns, lush green, so pleasing to the eye.
Bowed with fronds sweeping low to the earth,
catching the sun's few spare rays.

Climbing Paradise Ridge

I owned the tops of the mountains today. No others tracked the smooth white surface of the cold, clean snow. The mountain heights and I held our secret soul tryst, a chaste and joyous virtue only open to the lone and lonely.

I traverse the high passes, seeming so near to the pale blue sky, bracing against the fierce onslaught of the merciless freezing north wind. Howling gusts sweep up gritty blasts of icy snow grains in a ground blizzard, below a dark horizon troubled by passing storm clouds. As I struggle upward, the icy wind steals my breath away with each passing burst.

In the shelter of the deep shady canyon, I pause before tall green firs swaying and sighing as the force of the gale funnels up the slope, the wind whistling and moaning through the tossing boughs like the keening of mourners. The feet of the great trees stand deeply buried beneath the drifts.

Laboring to slowly climb the steep slope, bundled heavily against the freezing cold, my body is soon dripping with sweat. As the moisture accumulates under my hat and across the back of my neck, a rime of ice quickly forms around my head, into the simulation of a frosted white helmet.

I stop at the summit for a brief respite, in the lee of a swarm of boulders. I comb the ice out of my hair. Over the top of the broad peak, bare crusted snow is sculptured by the wind. The blowing snow appears to form sinuous snakes that writhe and coil and dance like living creatures. A sort of white noise, the continuous susurration of millions of snow grains skittering and slithering along, masks the roaring of the wind and creates a deep dynamic silence. Pressure against my back builds and ebbs from the force of the wild wind.

I have overstayed my welcome. The wind intensifies and the snow turns into heavier pellets that plaster across the front of my jacket and trousers, until I start to resemble an animate snowman. I hasten down the front side of the mountain, and as I pass, drifting snow quickly obliterates the traces of my passage.

Revisiting: The Masks Come Off

Some of the posturing of tolerance and respect has dropped away today, even more so than in recent times.

The real faces of protest and screaming demands are revealed to be twisted with hatred, ugly grimaces with dramatically hostile countenances.  It is apparent that this ideology was underlying fundamental sentiment all the time.  How can any protagonist of the current status even try to approach this howling wolf pack!  In their frenzied madness these unreasoning vigilantes would lynch us from the nearest tree.

We the beleaguered seek refuge in more comfortable places, while the screaming mobs mock with derision for our withdrawing from this daunting fray.

Each camp incites themselves to taunt and ridicule what they perceive as the enemy.  Ironically, it will only require some dramatic event to throw things back into a more realist perspective for all partisans.  The impact of one explosive event will be facilitated by all the current dissent and disorder.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Wasatch Wildflowers: Cleome serrulata, Rocky Mountain beeplant

Cleome serrulata is common across North America.

Insects are attracted to it, especially bees, which helps in the pollination of nearby plants. It is native to southern Canada and western and central United States. C. serrulata is an important cultural plant for many Southwestern Indian tribes. The young, tender shoots and leaves are good sources of vitamin A and calcium. In the past they were used as potherbs or medicinally as teas for fevers and other ailments. The seeds were ground and used to make gruel or bread.

The Navajo still use the plant as a source of yellow-green dye for their beautiful wool rugs and blankets. Many pueblo tribes use a concentrated form of dye, made from boiling the plant into a thick black resin, to paint designs on pottery or for decorating their baskets

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Wasatch Wildflowers: Abies lasiocarpa, Sub-Alpine Fir

Perhaps among the most distinguishing features of this fir tree is the upright presentation of dark purplish cones early in the season.  The cones exude sticky sap that drips down.

The bark of mature trunks of the tree is smooth gray, punctuated with elongated lenticels and minor branch scars, which give it a stippled appearance.

The crown of mature firs present as a sharply pointed and gradually tapering pyramidal shape, typically with major branches reaching to the ground, or nearly so


Firneedles adopt a very dark green color overall, with the new growth appearing much lighter in color.

On close examination, in can be seen the needle is pyramidal in cross section, and that the needle surface is densely packed with white lenticels on either side of the needle midrib, with the upper surface less dense and the lower white stripe being wider.

Interesting to note that the Sub Alpine Fir at the highest elevations adapts a "Krumholtz" growth habit, the trees presenting stunted and twisted shapes with little height, sometimes even reduced to mat-like prostrate and ground hugging growths that bear scant resemblance to trees at lower elevation.