A tree-trimming crew has been in the area cutting back growth that threatens the power lines. As I watched them here just on the edge of my property one day last week, I was amazed at how quickly the scenery changes with the removal of just a few saplings and shrubs, how more blue sky is let in, more light, more shadow.
One would think that, with all their layers of green upon green, these densely packed woods would be nothing more than a muddled mass of indistinct shapes, but that's not the case at all. Despite the tangled multitude of leaves, pine needles, branches and boughs, it's all a living breathing canvas of planes, surfaces, and textures, with distinct lines between each subtle hue and shape.
As an experiment, I selected a single low branch on an oak tree, and observed the small almost imperceptible differences between the leaves. While, at first glance, they all appeared to be carbon copies of each other, they were in actuality all quite distinct, each bearing its own unique qualities and coloring. Their position on the branch also contributed to the intensity of their appearance, as the topmost leaves blocked the light from reaching the lower ones, thus altering all the shades in between by infinitesimal degrees. I backed away a bit to test at one point if it would all become a blur, but it never did. Even from a much greater distance, each leaf stood clearly apart from its neighbors due to its slightly different position on the branch.
Air currents also manifest themselves in interesting ways in these woods. Whereas the trees and shrubs nearest to me often stand quite still, movement is seen through their branches as the more distant trees sway in the breeze, their leaves trembling at its touch. Yet the dense buffer zone created by the thicker stands of oaks and pines deflects this wind away from those trees that hold this place more closely in its embrace, the closest providing a framework of sorts through which I am able to catch a glimpse of something happening beyond.
The annual shedding of the pines is all but finished now, and a new carpet of reddish needles carpets the ground beneath them. But the deciduous trees, the oaks and maples and birches, have reached their fullness, which grows more pronounced with each passing year, and I cannot help but wonder at how so much perfection is arrived at so randomly and without any apparent plan. Nature seems not to worry much, if at all, about such things as boundaries and symmetry and neatness. Yet who can dispute the eclectic beauty of a tangle of tree branches overlaying a background of green moving shapes?
From the lowly forgotten shrub whose leaves lie flat beneath the more gossamer tufts of overhanging pine needles to the large leathery oak leaves that brush across my window, each of these woods' myriad shapes has a role to play, and each, I must say, plays it to perfection.