In Abeyance, Winter Trees
Tree rings are often cited as one way to mark the passage of time. Each concentric ring mirroring one revolution of the earth around the sun. But it is how the passage of time is registered in the leaves, twigs, branches, trunks and roots that are the subject of, In Abeyance, Trees of Winter. Because they too, reveal the time that these remarkable trees have lived. Branches bend, dodge, twist and turn in order to capture the most sunlight. In order to grow as much as possible. In order to survive.
Deeply the dead take root, and driving through,
Breach the air with this wild shock of branch—
Now Medusa’s hair- a crackling blackness,
The whole sky a stare turned to stone—
Winter Tree, Jon Lang
The structures of deciduous trees are revealed in the autumn of each year. Tree branches stretch away from the thick trunk of the tree like tributaries of a river. Leaves fall from branches. Sometimes blanketing the ground in the course of a morning, creating temporary pools of beautiful color underneath. At other times the process of denuding is slow. Taking months to finish. A few leaves steadfastly clinging to bare branches until spring.
All the complicated details
of the attiring and
the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.
Winter Trees, William Carlos Williams
If a seed from a tree falls in the woods and manages to root and grow, those first few years will determine its long term chances of survival. For when young and limber, these trees spend their early years bending, pushing and stretching upwards towards sun and sky. Seeking the light necessary for photosynthesis and life.
O Dreaming trees, sunk in a swoon of sleep
What have ye seen in these mysterious places?
Paul Nash, poem written for Mercia Oakley, c.1909
Trees are one way to understand a specific place and period of time. They reflect the environment they live in and tell the stories of water, light, soil, disease, fire and human intervention. The Wollemi tree, rare and native to Australia, can be found in fossils dating back two hundred million to one hundred million years ago. In comparison to the history of the Wollemi, our existence as humans, is but a small sliver of that timeline.
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