The Giving Nature of Trees, NPR's Morning Edition, and Sexing Your Pinecones

This silence in the timbers.
A woodpecker on one of the trees taps out its story.
Robert Haight*
Each tree, too, has its own story, its own family, its own tribe. And even though we do not know if they give their lives willingly, we could not live or breathe without them. We fell them for their timber, for fuel for our fireplaces, and to grace our homes during the Christmas season.  We thin them to allow other nearby trees to mature and to help prevent insect infestation.  

In the small mountain community where I live, hundreds of 
Douglas fir and Ponderosa pines are being selectively felled for fire mitigation.  We are using the straightest of the “poles” to build a new barn for our community herd of horses, a bittersweet project because the trees must die.  
But by this time next year, the barn will be built and the horses will be able to seek shelter on the leeward side, protected from the wind and rain and snow.  I walk the dirt road where the cutting is taking place and touch the stumps that remain, inhaling the turpentine scene of pine and gather small armfuls of green branches to take home.  I am glad we are not using pre-fab metal for the barn.  Last weekend, John and I hiked the forest in search of a homegrown Christmas tree, one that we could take home and decorate.  We found a crowded cluster of saplings, each struggling for their own meager bit of sunshine.  We selected three which, when held together, formed a scrawny tree at which even Charlie Brown would have laughed. 
Standing next to the stand of saplings, surrounded by a family of older trees with crowns that swayed 75’ above us, we said a few prayerful words of gratitude, then headed home.  We used duct tape to bind the three small trunks together to form one trunk, and hoisted a few drooping branches off the rug with strands of sewing thread.  The delicate branches couldn’t support anything but the lightest of ornaments.  We wound three strands of lights and ribbon garland among the branches to fill in the bare spots.  The angel perched on the top was too heavy so we suspended her from the ceiling with more thread.  

The effort was comical.  But in the end, we were charmed by the three small saplings and what they represented— the simple strength of a three-legged stool, the thematic unity of a trilogy, the belief in the strength of a common purpose, even the spiritual message of the trinity.  And equally profound—the importance of honoring the essence inside each and every living thing.  I wish you a simple season, full of simple pleasures and simple blessings.  But most of all, I wish for you the chance to walk in the woods with a loved one, to stand beneath a blue sky surrounded by a family of trees and listen to the tapping of woodpecker or the song of the chickadee, to touch the bough of an evergreen and rekindle your faith in the innate goodness of the world.

Links of Interest
*Lines of poetry excerpted from "How Is It That The Snow" by Robert Haight, Column 193 of Ted Kooser's American Life in Poetry. Read entire poemNPR’s Morning Edition: Environmentalists encourage people to cut down holiday trees instead of buying artificial ones. Why live trees are better than plastic one. Listen to the storyDo you know what sex your pinecones are?  Yep, gender is everything.  This is a fun article on how to tell male from female trees, how to gather the pinecones, and how to harvest the pine "seeds" for planting. Check it out.


Bill said…
A fun article. I really liked the "composite" Christmas tree made from several unlikely candidates.

I'm a huge fan of trees. Spend a good deal of time in the woods. All good. Thank you for this intriguing post. You are a delightful writer.
Page Lambert said…
Bill, thanks for visiting and leaving a few tracks! And thank you, also, for the generous words. I'm lucky to be able to spend a lot of time with trees, too. You might enjoy checking out the new Clear Creek Land Conservancy website (I'm their creative consultant). Clear Creek Canyon is my backyard.
Anonymous said…
Page, I was thinking of writing a "Lighten Up" post for my series on how to reduce our carbon footprint on living Christmas trees. Thanks for the inspiration and the nudge--love your tripod tree!
Page said…
Merry Christmas, Susan! I really liked the NPR Morning Edition recently that explored the question: which is more environmentally responsible, plastic trees that can be reused, or real trees that are biodegradable and drink up carbon. Glad you liked my tripod tree!
Nancy said…
Dear Page:

Such a beautiful picture of you capturing more than just the physical but also the spiritual and natural enduring beauty of body and spirit and soul..I am so proud of you for the wonderful way you write and appreciate and help others important.

May this coming year be a good one for you and those you love!


Page said…
Nancy, so lovely to hear from such a dear and special lady. Thank you.
Heloise Jones said…
Beautiful article, Page. Your tree is beautiful. Magical, actually. I love what you did...did not ask those little trees to carry the weight of your desires, but allowed them to hold the space instead. Lovely.
Mary Estill said…
LOVELY Page, thank you. Is that lit up photo your tree trinity? Best in image is the Angel floating above.

Loved poem on the white silence of newly fallen snow. New fallen, fresh snow truly does dampen out the forest and life sounds for its moment in being, while earth ground life sleeps beneath. Later, of course, a snow field generates it's own voice - songs, laughter, creaks, cries and moans. Like the wind.

Speaking of trees and forests, did you see this week's NOVA PBS on Fractals and Nature's Geometries? It's far more than leaves, nautili, snowflakes, water drops, crystals and icicles etc. Measuring circumferences of tree trunks in a forest, they fall into the same pattern by size as the relationship of branches to the trunk of its tree parts.

So the forest itself is a fractal iteration of each and all the branching trees in it.

This pattern should not be disrupted in selecting individual trees, or better clumps of trees, to be sacrificed for sake of forest health itself, without fire.

Perhaps tree clump distribution pattern itself may manage how the fire leaps and destroys, allowing the new growth again to rise in sequenced fractal iterations?

Mary Estill
Page said…
Heloise, thank you, as always, for sharing your thoughts here. Your phrase, "Carry the weight of your desires" is a powerful idea and I wonder how often we ask that of the world, and how seldom we recognize when our desires are fulfilled, so quick are we to move on to new ones.
Page Lambert said…
Yes, Mary, that is our tree trinity - 3 little saplings leaning on one another. Also loved your comment about a snow field generating its own voice. I especially noticed that on the ranch in Wyoming, where the landscape varied so much and created unique drifts and waves, windblown expanses and soft, deep draws. Each resonated with a different sound when one walked, or when the wind traveled across the land. So beautiful. Thank you, Mary.

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