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Trees and tangles
braiding
nhwaterspirit
When I walk in the woods near my house, lately I've been drawn to a place where the path is blocked. Many fallen trees and broken branches, from the ice storm of 2008, have bowed and bent the small birches and maples into a set of green tangles. It is difficult, disturbing, hard to get through, and yet so beautiful that I keep going back. It's a kind of fairy bower.

As a child in the woods of Surrey, how I loved such places! And the child in me still stands in awe, while the adult sees the amount of work involved, and understands why this path was not cleared. My neighbor Rick, a fine woodsman, has restored every path except this one, spending hours in the woods he loves. I look again at the patterns and lines; straight where branches broke, curved, grotesque, and yet beautiful and compelling - where the tree is still alive.

I think about weight, and the stress that causes these unearthly shapes. The ice storm, which they called a once-in-a-lifetime event, altered these woods. What about human beings like us? What does constant pressure do to the spirit? It can be beautiful: the discipline of the dancer resulting in perfect, seemingly effortless movement. Or it can be grotesque: you meet the compulsive, half-crazy woman, who hoards food in the midst of plenty, and then learn her story. Once she was a half-starved refugee, her body survived the Second World War, but the spirit is still that of a hungry child.

I remember coming here right after the ice storm, when every twig was covered with silver, and the light made it almost too bright to look at. I came in the fall, and it was all red-and-gold, like being inside a sunset. Now it's green, with wild grape vines lacing the dead and live branches together, and I look and look, and need to keep looking. Part of me wants to untangle and make everything straight, clear the path again. Part of me loves it, in its wild broken beauty, just the way it is.

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