To the Cottonwood Tree

To the cottonwood tree near my work:
I listened to your brothers and sisters
as their leaves sang in the breeze by a river .
I met your cousins in the Grand Canyon –
they gave me shade on a blistering day.
I know your kin well. They are my friends.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

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Lab Girl and a Walk in the Forest

I finished Hope Jahren’s book, Lab Girl, last week – and I loved it. I thought a lot about Jahren’s book as I was walking through the forest at Rasar State Park on a camping trip this week…

“Some unique trigger-combination of temperature-moisture-light and many other things is required to convince a seed to jump off the deep end and take its chance— to take its one and only chance to grow. A seed is alive while it waits. Every acorn on the ground is just as alive as the three-hundred-year-old oak tree that towers over it…  When you go into a forest you probably tend to look up at the plants that have grown so much taller than you ever could. You probably don’t look down, where just beneath your single footprint sit hundreds of seeds, each one alive and waiting… When you are in the forest, for every tree that you see, there are at least a hundred more trees waiting in the soil, alive and fervently wishing to be.” – Hope Jahren

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Maple seeds waiting…

“Once the first root is extended, the plant will never again enjoy any hope (however feeble) of relocating to a place less cold, less dry, less dangerous. Indeed, it will face frost, drought, and greedy jaws without any possibility of flight. The tiny rootlet has only one chance to guess what the future years, decades— even centuries— will bring to the patch of soil where it sits. It assesses the light and humidity of the moment, refers to its programming, and quite literally takes the plunge… If a root finds what it needs, it bulks into a taproot— an anchor that can swell and split bedrock, and move gallons of water daily for years, much more efficiently than any mechanical pump yet invented by man. The taproot sends out lateral roots that intertwine with those of the plant next to it, capable of signaling danger” – Hope Jahren

“The first real leaf is a new idea. As soon as a seed is anchored, its priorities shift and it redirects all its energy toward stretching up. Its reserves have nearly run out and it desperately needs to capture light in order to fuel the process that keeps it alive. As the tiniest plant in the forest, it has to work harder than everything above it, all the while enduring a misery of shade.All the sugar that you have ever eaten was first made within a leaf. Without a constant supply of glucose to your brain, you will die. Period… It’s inescapable: at this very moment, within the synapses of your brain, leaves are fueling thoughts of leaves.”

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Forest Canopy, Rasar State Park (photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell)

“Trees are a unique type of plant because their stems can be more than one hundred yards long and are made of this amazing substance that we call wood. Wood is strong, light, flexible, nontoxic, and weather-resistant; thousands of years of human civilization have yet to produce a better multipurpose building material. Inch for inch, a wooden beam is as strong as one made from cast iron but is ten times more flexible and only one-tenth as heavy… Every piece of wood in your house— from the windowsills to the furniture to the rafters— was once part of a living being, thriving in the open and pulsing with sap.” – Hope Jahren

“You may think a mushroom is a fungus. This is exactly like believing that a penis is a man. Every toadstool, from the deliciously edible to the deathly poisonous, is merely a sex organ that is attached to something more whole, complex, and hidden.” – Hope Jahren

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Mushrooms on Stump at Rasar State Park (Karen Molenaar Terrell)

“Plants do not travel through space as we do: as a rule they do not move from place to place. Instead they travel through time, enduring one event after the other, and in this sense, winter is a particularly long trip. Trees follow the standard advice given for any extended travel within a rustic setting: pack carefully.” – Hope Jahren

“There are thousands of different palm species, and they all belong to the Arecaceae family. The Arecaceae are important because they were the first plant family to evolve as ‘monocots’ about a hundred million years ago… The very earliest monocots soon evolved into grasses, and grasslands eventually spread across the vast areas of the Earth where it’s just a little too wet to be a desert and still a little too dry to be a forest.” – Hope Jahren

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Maple seeds waiting…

“Research has shown how a brief glimpse of green significantly improved the creativity that people brought to bear on simple tasks.” – Hope Jahren

O Christmas Tree!

I took down the Christmas tree today – removed layers of ribbon, gauze, sparkle, and nostalgia.  The sparkle and gauze are easy to take off. But taking down the sons’ grade school popsickle creations, the ornaments my students have given me through the years, and the Christmas tree decorations that we bought on family trips and adventures – those are harder for me to wrap up and stow away for another year.

Our tree was really beautiful this year – a Turkish fir that we cut down at the local tree farm. On the day we cut it down, I promised that little tree that I would plant the seeds from its one cone and try to nurture its offspring. into fine sturdy evergreens.  I planted the seeds in a pot a few days later. I tried to find information on the best way to plant Turkish fir seeds, but couldn’t find anything.  I’m really hoping I’ll see little seedlings sprouting up next spring, though.

Years ago, when one of our sons was maybe six or seven, he started crying when we cut down a tree for Christmas. He was really angry that we’d cut down a perfectly fine tree for no other reason than to drag it into our house and decorate it.  We saw his point, and for a few years bought living trees in pots that we later replanted in the backyard. The problem with that, though, was that the living trees were always pretty small, and we had to make sure they didn’t dry out in the house. After the living trees we put up an an artificial tree for a few years. What was cool about the artificial tree was that we could bend its wire branches to keep the ornaments on it. But… well… it was a fake tree. It didn’t smell like an evergreen – it smelled like fire repellent. It didn’t bring life into the house, it brought man-made chemicals.  After we’d had it a few years, it was looking pretty tattered and bedraggled, and the husband and I decided it was time to go back to real trees.

Our annual sacrificial evergreen always has a place of honor in the house. We decorate it and make it sparkle, and appreciate the beauty it brings into our home.

And this year I’m going to do what I can to keep our Turkish fir’s offspring growing. It’s the least I can do, right?

christmas tree 2015

“There’s nothing more beautiful than a tree…”

“There’s nothing more beautiful than a tree,” Alain Le Goff liked to say…

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Photo of 700 year-old tree at Deception Pass, Washington by Karen Molenaar Terrell

“Look how they’re working …They’re linking the earth to the sky. That’s very difficult, son. The sky is so lightweight that it’s always at the point of taking off. If there were no trees, it would bid us farewell …You can see that the trunk of a tree is a thick rope. Sometimes there are knots inside. The strands of the rope work themselves loose at each end so that they can fasten onto the sky and the earth. At the top they’re called branches, and at the bottom, roots. But it comes to the same thing.”– Pierre-Jakez Helias, Horse of Pride

I love trees. They give us shade, shelter, and oxygen. They hold the soil to the hillside, fruit on their branches, and our tire swings above the ground.

Down the road from our house is a tree that I’ve come to think of as “The Giving Tree” – there are now two honey bee nests thriving inside its trunk, a little gardner snake home at its base, and a bird’s nest at the top…

Every year a little fir tree on the path along Bellingham Bay slowly begins accumulating Christmas decorations on its branches. Why this particular tree was picked to be the path’s annual Christmas tree, I do not know. But she’s a very jaunty little tree, and it brings me great joy to contribute to her Christmas finery, and to see her all gussied-up for Christmas.

Christmas tree 2

“For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” – Isaiah 55: 12

“And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” – Psalms 1: 3

green shoes Christmas

(all photos by Karen Molenaar Terrell)

 

How lovely are thy branches…

“There’s nothing more beautiful than a tree,” Alain Le Goff liked to say…

“Look how they’re working …They’re linking the earth to the tree and sunsetsky. That’s very difficult, son. The sky is so lightweight that it’s always at the point of taking off. If there were no trees, it would bid us farewell …You can see that the trunk of a tree is a thick rope. Sometimes there are knots inside. The strands of the rope work themselves loose at each end so that they can fasten onto the sky and the earth. At the top they’re called branches, and at the bottom, roots. But it comes to the same thing.”– Pierre-Jakez Helias, Horse of Pride

I love trees. They give us shade, shelter, and oxygen. They hold the soil to the hillside, fruit on their branches, and our tire swings above the ground.

When I was a little girl I walked home from school by a property that had a line  of little fir trees which were left, unplanted and drying up, next to dusty holes that someone had dug for them. The trees seemed to have been forgotten and abandoned. My heart went out to them. I plucked one of the little firs up and brought it home to Mom. Mom tried to explain that those trees belonged to someone, but it did not compute – it was obvious to me that those trees deserved a better care-giver than the person who had left them, with their little roots drying up in the open air. Mom must have realized that if that tree was going to survive it needed to be planted post haste – so she found me a planter big enough to accommodate a tree’s roots, and provided a home for “Treesa” (the name I gave her). When we moved several years later, we brought Treesa with us and planted her on our new property, where she lived, grew, and prospered. (Treesa’s sister trees – the other little firs that had been waiting with her to be planted the day I walked past them – never did get planted, and didn’t make it.)

Every year a little fir tree on the path along Bellingham Bay slowly begins accumulating Christmas decorations on its branches. Why this particular tree was picked to be the path’s annual Christmas tree, I do not know. But she’s a very jaunty little tree, and it brings me great joy to contribute to her Christmas finery, and to see her all gussied-up for Christmas.

Christmas tree 2

“For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” – Isaiah 55: 12

“And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” – Psalms 1: 3

green Padden         winter trees in upstate NY 600 year-old tree in Deception Pass, WA      Adirondack winter trees (2) autumn trees            Bellingham tree autumn trees            Padden trees    boy in tree

 

all photos by Karen Molenaar Terrell

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