Thursday, October 29, 2009

Down Into the Fall Forest We Go

It's a vigorous walk down the hill through the blueberry field into the forest. Each time I enter the wood I feel a tinge of guilt for my part in altering it... a management of land to open fields and create a diverse habitat... opening the views at the same time. The Pine grove is being taken over by hardwoods... an invasion I have allowed to happen... due in part to just not having enough energy and resources to wage battle; and frankly, I am exhausted from the struggle to keep the upper land open. I choose to let it be and the grove is magical in its way. 

Once beyond the stand of Pine, there are some grand hardwoods such as American Beech, Fagus grandiflora, which can grow up to 100 feet and spread to 70 feet. I'm not sure if the two posted today are quite that large but you can see they are very handsome... their bark smooth and there is a solidness to their being I sometimes rely on. 

Just after we pass the Beech we come before the true giant of the forest ...  a great White Pine, Pinus strobus, that was hit by lighting years back. I could do an entire post on this cathedral of the wood ... here I show only the base and trunk as seen through the forest. 

Walking further we see an alley of sorts ... White Pine again which grow very tall along the border of my land. You can see their huge evergreen canopy towering over the forest from the house and gardens. Walking beneath the mammoth trees and looking up, you cannot see to the very top which can reach up to 160 feet. Again these trees are not at that height ... yet.

Moving through the alley and looking back I always feel a sense of community here ... I imagine the intertwined roots beneath the forest floor ... a world I walk above ... never see and rarely think of. An entire forest of roots holding up such crusty height and voluminous weight ... it boggles the imagination ... the sensation and shared fates. We continue on walking over several small streams ... nearly dried up a few days ago ... now with all the rainfall, I would think they are flowing again, though hidden under leaves. 

The forest is around fifteen acres and has many different rooms so to speak ... just past the White Pine border we come to an area filled with younger Pines, Hemlock, Yellow Birch and large Oaks. There are two twins, Quercus alba or White Oak, that are particularly stately standing here. Years back when I was opening the fields,  the loggers encouraged me to take them down, as they were blocking the view somewhat and would most likely cover Mount Tom in years to come. I would not cut them ... one has to go into the forest to know the trees ... not just see them from above as canopies covering part of a view.

Nearby other trees were not so lucky to have missed the saw that took them down... their trunks still stand as altars covered in moss and mushrooms. Some were cut earlier by a crew that could not remove the  massive trunks. The forest is alive in growth and decay... building up and breaking down ... a constant change occurring ... nothing is ever wasted. 

We are entering one of my favorite spaces now, where a gorgeous White Beech growsThe Beech is an old friend that I frequently go up to and just lean on its amazing trunk ... its bark reminds me somewhat of an elephant, and in a similar quiet, wise way it smoothly stands and is such a presence. There has been a tragedy going on nearby for some years now.

A beautiful old Ash,  fraxinus species, is nearly dead ... its limbs falling down around it becoming home to other forms of life. It saddens me to see this majestic creature dying ... I have known all these trees for over thirty years ... it is a forest of friends.

It is hard to imagine roots giving way from below this magnificent trunk. I trust it will not go that way but continue to fall from the tips of the crown, leaving a crusty torso standing for Pileated Woodpeckers to feast on and perhaps to build a nest into.

Here a lovely duet ... a portrait of a Yellow Birch, Betula alleghaniensisstanding near a large granite boulder  and my favorite Beech in the distance. The bright yellow leaves are from Beech saplings.

The surface roots of many trees have created interesting crevices wherein I hid little treasures for my son all his growing years. Now he is a tall lean trunk of a man ... standing independently a good 6 feet 3 inches. We shared many wonderful years of exploration in this  enchanting wood. 

There are large wild grape vines working to bring the trees down. From time to time, I do cut them at the base leaving their entangle forms standing like sculpture, that can harm no more ... the lengthy limbs reaching towards the stars.

Heading back up to the gardens, we finish our forest loop near the Pine grove.

Along the climb out of the wood, we note the brilliant red of the blueberries scattered across the field. There is much work to be done here or the forest will reclaim the hillside... saplings of Pine, Oak and Birch, to name a few that must be cut. I will wait on the Pine and bring those inside in the darkest hours of winter or just before a heavy snow. 

Further up the sloping hillside the setting sun lights up Carey Hill's new wave of color... worn by the many Oaks established there.

To have a forest of one's own is truly a gift ... a great responsibility ... to be a good steward ... to honor such growth. I am so grateful for the privilege. Looking over at the Mount Holyoke Range the border of White Pines, stand tall reaching up with their coniferous boughs and tips towards the blue. 

Then turning west towards Mount Tom ...  golden canopies of the twin Oaks create a wide carpet beneath the atmospheric blue hill. It is a good end to a day. I hope you have not been too burdened with the length of my post ... inspired by the great heights of my trees ... and that when you see the landscape from the gardens, you might remember the forest below, which in part paint the lovely colors and textures you see. 

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