I am not sure when this thing about trees began. When I was young, I lived in a place with tree but not very many. In our neighborhood at the edge a fairly large city there certainly were trees. many places in the sidewalks, the roots of the trees had pushed up through the cement and made walking hazardous. I seemed always to be the one who tripped and fell on those sidewalks. So we did have trees and I remember climbing my share of them. And in sixth grade, assigned by the art teacher to draw and then paint a tree, I was joyful, yet embarrassed to have my tree held up before the class as a positive example. But honestly I did not particularly have any much interest in trees.
Much after those days, I moved to a very quiet place. It was in the middle of the worst winter ever in that little town and the property had trees and more trees. There were giant White Birches and Evergreens, the variety of which I am uncertain. And there was snow. The last family to live in that house had mounted a motion detecting light high on a tree at the edge of the driveway. And when the snow fell, the light would come on. I could see it through the large window in the kitchen. White snow, black and white trees, all moving in the wind. It was a place where winter was long and snow was frequent. How many hours I spent in the kitchen watching the trees.
Yet I did not particularly photograph trees. Perhaps all the city years had caused me to see the man made, the industrial images. The trees many Falls show up here and there. In New England, one cannot ignore Fall Color. A friend said once that Fall in New England is Nature’s apology for what it is about to bring down upon one. And then it was time to leave New England and the places of the past. We drove south and west on a very cold morning. There was snow in Pennsylvania that morning and it seemed as if the sun would never rise behind as I drove my car with all four of the cats.
In Virginia, I have turned to the trees. They seem to be there in front of the lens. And there is the sky. The wide sky of The Valley. Sometimes there is not color but gray and mist and then there are evenings bright red or gold. Does the color come from all the mountains?
There are not very many White Birch trees here. I have one little clump growing near my house. It is young and so far the bark is beginning to turn white. I am told that it will not grow easily here but there may be a time for snow on white bark once more.
I see trees more and more in my work lately. For the last year, I have been aware of the condition of the trees. Parts break away and fall to the ground. Some are broken by the wind or the lightning. Some branches just break for reasons I cannot see. Once in a while, the broken limbs hang from the trunk, waiting to fall. At the edge of our woods one giant limb fell but was caught by two other trees and that limb now sits horizontally in the branches of those trees, saved from its final and inevitable fall. The trees , though broken, live on in their altered form, less perfect that they were but still living. Some of the trees die but refuse to fall for years, hanging on.
The tree are like we are. In youth, we are more perfect than we know. But time or trouble may fell us altogether like a lightning storm that comes up on a warm summer afternoon. More often, we break apart a branch at a time, losing parts of ourselves slowly , but going on. We are victims of the day to day storms, some internal, that break us. Parts fall away completely or still hang to be dragged along. We feel the weight. Once in a while, we are rescued by a nearby tree that will share the weight of the broken parts and we are given more time. Mostly bit by bit, we grow smaller and weaker until that day when a storm comes and we fall away.