On these trees


clouds to the west


The rhythm of movement. Lost in thought, and trying not to think. Just observe. The beauty and silence of the early winter on the mountain. Over cast sky and hills flattened without shadows, broken by dried bunch grass and the leafless cinquefoil poking through thin snow. Speckled hillsides where we expect by now to see smooth white. Don’t think about the continued drought. Don’t think. Just observe.
Cold hands. I struggle to press the shutter with my mittens on. As clumsy as boxer mits. Such contrast to the delicate subjects before me.


beetle killed blue spruce

Dead trees. And dying ones. Sending out their last sap in a losing battle.
Beetle kill. Part of learning to see, finding the beauty in the beast. Getting used to it. Living with it. Knowing the tell-tale signs. Pin holes, loose bark, dried and heavy sap runs. This is Cutting Edge science. They look for answers. I wish they had them. I am learning to see reality. We are seeing changes yet undocumented, not yet understood. We learn to live it, not analyze it. We use our eyes, our heart. We listen to the falling needles on cold ground in spring and brush a tiny black beetle off our shirt in early summer. We walk trails silent from the layer of needles spread out before us like sand leading the way to the beach. Needles that once were shade. The view is opening.


running sap 2

It’s big, hundreds of thousands acres around me, but I am going to look close.
Some days it gets to me. Looking up at the rolling hillsides of brown blue spruce. Looking closer, say, at one pin hole or piece of slipping bark, is easier.


running sap

Living in a land I used to think was one of the last to be affected in this country, kind of like the late bloomer. Behind the times, if I may say. But now we find ourselves ahead of the game. Water issues. Drought. The aquifer drying up. Farmers paid not to grow. Entire forests dying. This is the forefront. There is nothing to refer to except for today.
We learn to listen with our eyes, our hearts, and let the so-called experts spit in the wind. Hopefully not too close to you or me.
I’m a dark timber kind of woman. A wood sprite of sorts who hides in the big heavy trees where my spirit is free and soars. I found my grandmother wisdom in the old growth fir, and my passionate bliss among the vanilla scented ponderosa pine. I’m not a silken bark aspen kind of lady putting out a fanfare of garish delight one season, and letting loose my leaves for half the year. That said, I have grown to love a hillside blending one into the other. That is Colorado.


dead aspen 2

At last count, Colorado lost 17% of our aspen. The aspen, some say, will be replaced by the conifer. They said that before the conifer began to die. Now some say the aspen will replace the conifer. I say no one knows. Such claims bring false hope. Can’t the land be beautiful for how she chooses to be? Ah… but are these changes her choice, or her reaction to our changing world?
All we can do is watch them slowly die, a quiet death, without fanfare. It doesn’t take a scientist to tell me. It only takes my eyes.
I see it. Plain as day. Plain as death.
Perhaps it is meant to be a mystery after all.
Have I lost my way again? What happened to quieting my mind and just observing?
How hard it is to just breathe.


dead aspen


4 thoughts on “On these trees

  1. We’re losing trees here in Britain too – Ash trees that are as iconic to this land as the conifers are to yours – and there is no answer, not yet. Disease comes as a prowling monster, a spreading plague that takes all it wishes. It is tragic and frustrating and so wrong. I really feel for you, seeing so much loss. It’s like family members expiring, parts of ones body atropying.

    You’re a dark timber kind of person, I’m a beech wood person. I can only imagine how bereft I’d feel if the beech woods were dying. My thoughts are with you, Gin.

  2. Pingback: Big Heavy « whitehothair

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