During the howling of the wind, the crunching sound of steps on a frozen trail, or the diamond sparkle of the late afternoon sun, you see it standing there – unmoved, strong, and enchanting to the eye. To know nature’s spirit in infinite variety, get close to a single tree in winter – look at it, touch it, stand back and take it in. Hal Borland, the essayist and author who walked the woodlands and fields for decades and shared what he saw and felt with thousands of readers, wrote of finding “the truth of trees” in winter. He cited particularly the hardwoods of his backyard, the Northeast’s hills, though the experience is in many places. In summer, the trees collectively become lush, vast woodlands. In autumn, they burst with exuberant colors that paint entire hillsides. In winter, however, the clarity of the sunlight most reveals each tree as a unique form, as Borland observed.
“Trees, not a forest or a woodland,” Borland wrote. “Trees rooted in earth, reaching for sun and stars, each in its own way. And each with its own symmetry, its own pattern. Trees that have known ice and storm, have been maimed, have healed, have held fast through more winters than any man will ever know. Trees waiting, as only trees can wait, for spring and summer when they will be a woodland again, a vastness of green and an ocean of shade.”
In winter, we see each tree in its glory and its quirkiness – a no-two-alike creature that is lacy and thick, hard and soft, straight and crooked, delicate and strong. Some appear animated and fierce, others gentle and precise as a ballet movement. The gold and deep pink of the horizon during winter’s dawn and dusk highlights each tree. An encounter along a path reveals the wild profusion and deep etchings of a life that has outlasted the raw elements of so many seasons. To look past these winter trees is to close your eyes to a daily revelation. Yes, spring’s fullness is coming but who dare ignores their beauty and their message of life’s resilience now?
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