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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Oak Tree

There are many trees that make their home in Connecticut.  To be honest, I couldn't even name half of them.  I know my maples, my cherries, my dogwoods, my beeches and birches, and of course, the majestic oak tree.   That is about it though.  I know the names of plenty of others, but in terms of identifying them, I would have a much harder time.   Trees are a majestic plant to look at.   Simple and stately, yet complex and dominant.  They all start from a tiny trunk with a few simple branches and grow till they reach 60-100 feet in height with a multitude of branches reaching for an open spot in the sky from which to gather sunlight.  I have come to love looking at trees and admiring their structure, sometimes whimsical growth, and imposing presence almost everywhere in Connecticut.  I love them in the spring and summer when they are adorned with leaves.  And I love them in the fall and winter when their leaves turn brilliant colors and then are shed revealing the naked branches in all their sinewy, serpentine, glory.  But most of all, I have come to love and admire the oak tree.  The white oak is the state tree of Connecticut and also one of the most majestic.  

I have this one tree in particular that I love to stare at in my yard.  It is old, with an enormous burl perched near the base of the trunk and branches that twist and turn and snake outwards towards the sunlight.  There is one vantage point that gives an excellent side view of the branches as they reach for the sunlight (more on that in a minute).  My house sits in a clearing that is maybe a few hundred feet by a few hundred feet.  Not enormous, but enough to create a little bowl in which the trees that surround it reach inward with their branches to garner as much sunlight as possible.  It is this reaching inward that has created such a magnificent display of my favorite oak.  The vantage point I spoke about is from our second floor bathroom.  Looking out the window, you get what seems like a side view of the oak.  Almost all of the oak tree's branches look as if the are wind blown, dealing with a persistent wind that has forced them to reach a certain way with only time cementing them in place.  Yet there is no persistent wind, just the everlasting struggle to find that open piece of sky in which to sprout a leaf and drink in the sunlight.  It is an inspiring view and one that I could look at for hours.  Even the view from beneath this oak tree's canopy is breath taking.  The branches reach out from the trunk perhaps 30 feet in some areas and it almost seems impossible that a tree with branches that large can still stand and survive.  I have even built our fire pit beneath its boughs.  

I have come to love looking at more than just our oak tree.  There is something about an oak tree and the seeming random display of its branches that is enticing.  Tracing a line up an oak tree is not nearly as simple as tracing it up any other type of tree.  Many trees split off branches quite evenly, making a beautiful rounded top with perfectly spaced leaves and branches.   Oak trees seem to be the renegades for me with almost no rhyme or reason for their branches and their twists and turns, the ones that die and the ones that live and grow on.  I never try to figure out the rhyme or reason, I just look at the branches and admire them.  Any oak tree, anywhere.  Even more amazing is if you can find an old grove of trees where the forest floor is absent of almost all other life.  There is one bordering my property that has been un-touched for years.  The floor is packed with leaves and the trees themselves are no less than 60-80 feet tall.  The first branches begin perhaps 40-50 feet above the ground giving one the sense of being in a living cathedral.  For someone who loves nature like myself, there are few other sights that compare in terms of simplicity, beauty, and grandeur.  Sure, there are spectacular vistas to behold across the world, but for being so close to home, I'll take my oak trees and their canopy and the view they give me any day.  

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