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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Built By Nature

Who Has Seen the Wind?

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you.
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.
Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I.
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.

- Christina Rosetti, 1830 - 1894

I thought of this piece of poetry, which I first read dozens of years ago, when we were outside today. I love a lot about this time of year. Our apartment complex has numerous trees that celebrate the end of winter by covering themselves with white or pink blossoms. Some of the trees with white blooms look like they are covered with little puffs of popcorn. As the days pass and the blossom petals fall off, they will drift on the wind. When they land they will swirl and be strewn about until they look like miniature late-season snowdrifts.

I have come to the realization that I love trees no matter what the season. They are built by nature and have an incredible beauty at all stages of their development. When the earliest days of spring roll around, the smaller twigs and branches begin to soften and change to various shades of green or yellow or pinkish-red before the first signs of budding leaves even appear. I find myself wandering in awe and delight, declaring my adoration of these lovely trees in their gauzy green dresses.

Suddenly the leaves begin to appear, followed by the gorgeous white and pink (and sometimes other color) blooms. I catch my breath and tell myself that this is the trees' most beautiful time of the year. When the blossoms have fallen or faded away, the leaves grow to their full sizes and the trees are a gorgeous canopy of varied shades of green. Their branches provide cooling shade for birds, squirrels, and humans alike. The oak tree in front of the next building is loaded with tiny acorns which we first notice when they are the size of peppercorns.  It delights me to see them growing larger through the course of the summer. This is a wondrous time, the time when trees are becoming shade, shelter, and sustenance. 

When fall starts to arrive and the nights begin to cool, the trees prepare themselves for their winter sleep. Some of them have leaves that simply turn brown, like the brown nuts now falling from the branches. Others explode into riotous color. Green yields to yellow and red and one of my favorites, trees whose outside leaves still look green while the undersides are gold or dark red. This is the ultimate in the trees' beauty, I find myself thinking. If I am fortunate, I get up to the mountains to see the aspen trees trembling with their golden leaves on hillsides that were once searched for a different type of gold.

Winter comes, or maybe even fire. The once colorful trees are pared down to their very minimal essence, their branches. Their bones. These have a simple beauty that can leave me breathless. Even showing no signs of life, they have a stark grandeur. I look at a tree that has been stripped of its bark by the ravages of weather and time and see something that has passed its life in quiet dignity, gracing my life with its beauty. A tree whose life is over but still stands strong is an inspiration. I see it and draw in my breath. Even as it slowly fades away, it is beautiful. I love it in all of its seasons.

Postscript: The trees in this blog post were all photographed by The Lunatic, right here in Colorado. The last two photos were taken at Mesa Verde and the rest in the suburbs north of Denver, Colorado.


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