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The Slow Dance of Trees

This portion of an old tree trunk I photographed calls to mind many other things in nature that move with a fluidity that belies their hardness, density, and age. Mile-high glaciers, for instance, flow down mountainsides at, well, a glacial pace! The swirling folds of hardened, metamorphic rock bent eons ago under infernal heat and tremendous pressure can be see in the many rock ledges and outcroppings of our eastern woodlands.

The woody cells (lignin) of trees grow slowly, adding a little bit more girth with each growing season. Because the tree grows slowly, it can make micro-adjustments to adapt to obstacles such as boulders and rocks, and influences like fire, insect attack, prevailing winds, soil erosion, and gravity. When an old tree finally lays down, such undulations are often revealed as it weathers. Bark slips away to reveal the twists and turns taken during a life spent reaching for the sky. The sun bleaches and dries the wood, causing gaps and crevasses between layers of wood grain and growth rings.

Even in death, a tree is "alive" with many other organisms, from an assortment of insects, mosses, and lichen, to fungi and microorganisms. Many bird, mammal, and reptile species will make their homes inside dead trees. Hardwood and resinous trees can take nearly as long to decompose as it did for them to grow so large in life. In the end, the beauty of their journey is revealed as a sacred dance recorded in wood.

Reader Comments (2)

Excellent image. Thoughtful and concise choice of words

June 29, 2011 | Unregistered Commentersusan Beddia

Thank you Susan. It is so exciting to find an image such as this that inspires the words so powerfully.

June 29, 2011 | Registered CommenterMichael Gambino

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