It was a foggy walk in the Appalachian mountains that morning. Pacing myself up the steep inclines, I felt a visceral connection to the land and the cool moist air. I always do. You see, I was born to these woods.
I’m over a half a century old and for all that time I have known these woods. In younger days I accompanied my father as he worked this land. He knew the trees here. He could tell you the species just by inspecting the bark and limbs, he didn’t need to see the leaves to know which tree was which. There was always a family joke that he named the trees. My dad is 87 years old, but he can still tell me where a particular tree stands on this mountain. He can still walk the woods.
How do I describe what I see in this image? The trees have personality. I see ages and socialization and intent. That tall bold tree in the foreground? I like to think it represents me, standing in the midst of my peopled life. The elder trees in the clan are austere and a little bent. That tree to the left spreading its branches makes me think of a graceful young female, while others are as gawky as adolescent boys. I imagine earnest trees, like teenagers that can’t be contained. I see cliques and loners. The three trees hanging out to themselves in the back remind me of distant cousins at a family reunion. The couple of skinny saplings in the front are unruly children, one impatiently craning his neck to be set free of restraint. And that one to the right that curls up like a wisp of smoke? I think that one’s unsteady. I have an aunt like that.
No, I’m not a tree hugger and I’m not a crazy lady. I too work this land. I have a need to keep four cords of firewood in reserve. I scout the ridges for dead wood. I know trees that have formed water pools in their stumps. I see the hollows that house rodents and birds. I notice tree trunks spotted with woodpecker holes like a kid with chicken pox. I walk into the middle of those trees and respect the fact they are there. I do admit, there’s something about the silhouette of a tree that especially appeals to me. Yes, I am my father’s daughter.