I take lots of photographs of trees. I often take similar photos: I look straight up to the sky searching for the circling branches. I also take photos of leaves, pine needles, acorns, nuts, and twigs. I mostly haven’t been satisfied with my photos of trunks, but I keep trying. I’ve had a close relationship with trees my entire life and, if anything, I feel closer to them as I grow older.
First Trees I started climbing trees when I was very young at our home in Detroit. The tree–I think my dad called it a silver maple–was also quite young and I was able to shinny up it and climb pretty far up the branches. I remember being proud of my skill because I was the youngest and the girl. My parents also planted a little cherry tree of some kind in the backyard. I remember swiping a maraschino cherry from the jar in the refrigerator and sticking it on a little twig and announcing that the tree had produced a cherry! I didn’t fool anyone.* The street trees in our Rosedale Park neighborhood were elms. The trees from each side of the street met in the middle and made a comforting leaf canopy. Back in the 1950s Christmastime was still reliably cold in Detroit. One night I walked around the block with my dad looking at the Christmas lights. There was a blue spruce glowing with lights. I must have known it was a blue spruce because my dad told me its name. The magic was so strong that I feel it now, 66 years later. That mix of the cold air, the holiday lights, the blue tree, and my kind father keep me–even through many long and sometimes trying years–looking up at the trees and sky.
A few years later, my family moved to a lake near Milford, Michigan. When we first moved to our house, trilliums still bloomed nearby in the springtime and we saw deer tracks on the beach. My parents made sure that the builders did not cut down any extra trees when they built our house, so our new world was guarded by a grove of tall oaks and hickories along with the odd little sassafras and wild cherry. In most of the lawn, the grass grew a little bit thin, but the trees were almost like benevolent gods to my young nature-loving self. When I miss my home, which is often for a place that I haven’t lived in since 1972, I sometimes miss the trees as much as the people who lived there.**
*These early memories are slightly fuzzy; I might not have been the only one involved in the maraschino gambit.
**(Some of these words are adapted from Losing It: Deconstructing a Life, unpublished work © Lynda Terrill, all rights reserved)
More Trees Through the years, I have been lucky to encounter many trees. I’ve walked through Michigan woods, Appalachian and Piedmont forests, the grand ponderosa pine forests of the Kaibab Plateau, the bristlecone pines of Great Basin National Park, the redwood and sequoia cathedrals of California, and so many more tree lands. Not every forest or tree needed to be grand for me to love it. I fondly remember the single small tree on a minuscule pull-out on U.S. Route 89A–then, the only tree to be found on the Arizona Strip between Fredonia, Arizona and the Kaibab Plateau. I can’t remember the species of that tree; it might have been a pinyon pine.
I only started taking photographs (first on little Nikons, now just on phones) about 13 years ago. Nonetheless, I find that I have hundreds of tree-related photos. Below are some of my current favorites.
Enough photos for now, I think.
Old Growth, Part 1 In March 2020, Tom and I heard environmentalist Joan Maloof speak about old-growth forests. Maloof, “Professor Emeritus at Salisbury University, founded the Old-Growth Forest Network to preserve, protect and promote the country’s few remaining stands of old-growth forest. (www.joanmaloof.com/).” Since hearing Maloof’s presentation, Tom and I have been visiting more of these special forests, most recently last month when we walked in the Youghiogheny Grove Natural Area in Swallow Falls State Park, Maryland. I was going to make a bulleted list of the old forests we’ve hiked in, but I realized I don’t really know how many we have encountered. I don’t want to sound like a gaga old woman, but I have two ideas to share. First: not only do forests provide the earth with oxygen, food, shelter, fuel, etc., but they provide me with a sense of wonder and contentment that I don’t often feel elsewhere. Second, while I am a proponent of preserving all the old-growth forests that are left, I also want to acknowledge that a tree, a grove, a forest, doesn’t need a special designation to be awe-inspiring. I do encourage tree lovers to investigate the Old Growth Network and I still want to list a few of Tom’s and my favorite forests below:
- Kaibab National Forest, Arizona
- Great Basin National Park, Nevada
- Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, Michigan
- Cascade Falls, Ottawa National Forest, Michigan
- Congaree National Park, South Carolina
- Red Canyon, Dixie National Forest, Utah
- Fishlake National Forest (including Pando and Singletree Campground), Utah
- Cathedral Forest, Cook State Forest, Pennsylvania
- Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, Yosemite National Park, California
- The Giant Forest, Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, California
Old Growth, Part 2 I realize that I think, talk, and write quite a bit about trees. I might even repeat myself sometimes. Part of that may be because I am old and prone to reverie, but mostly it is because trees (and birds, bugs, plants, and rocks) help me focus on beauty amid the terrible news that surrounds me almost daily. Side note: I once had an employer who gave me job–at least in part–because, she said, I was a life-long learner. Maybe I am. Now, though, I just want to grow like a tree–like a tulip poplar in flower or just hang on like a pinyon pine on a canyon rim.
I love your story about you and your relationship with trees,
Thank you, Jeanne!
When a child, my father took my mother and me into the Ashley National Forest many times in search of the illusive fishing hole. I was always amazed at the density and how easy it would be to get lost if I wondered too far from our campsite. I love your story. While reading it Joyce Kilmer’s poem came to mind. Thank you.
I used to worry about somehow losing the kids when we were up in the mountains. We never did, but I required Sarah and Robert to have whistles, just in case. When your family searched for the perfect fishing hole, what was the elevation? Like firs, ponderosa, etc.? Remember when we camped in the Uintas and had roast lamb that took 100 hours to cook? haha Love you, Art
Browne Lake turned out to be a favorite and is surrounded by lodgepole pines and quaking aspen at an elevation of 8289 ft. It is West of Flaming Gorge in the Uintas.
I remember wrapping the lamb in aluminum and tossing it directly in the fire. It took a while but it was tasty as I recall.
I just looked at the photos of Browne Lake–it looks wonderful. I wonder if now is still far enough away that it isn’t overly crowded. it is off the main drag. I remember the fire that you cooked the lamb in. It was good and we were really hungry. I can’t remember what/if Tom and I might have brought for our contribution. You’re right about Joyce Kilmer; I thought about his poem when I was writing the blog.
Potatoes and corn as I recall. I’m sure that all the lakes in that area are still buried under many feet of snow. This winter was unusually heavy. A couple of the resorts got over 900 inches of total snowfall. When we went to Browne Lake the roads at that time were not that great, even later in the summer and there were never a lot of campers there. I love the forests though.
Yeah, potatoes and corn. Yes, we have been following your winter out there. Did you see that the Grand Canyon Lodge is not going to be open for lodgers until July 23 at the earliest? I am now going to look up if they allow ORVs up there at Browne Lake, I hope not.