Tolkien Cottonwoods

 

There is a tree half-standing in the north woodlot, a cottonwood, long dead. My husband remembers the summer day he heard it fall. Today what remains of the cottonwood’s splintered top-half angles toward the ground like the bent tip of a wizard’s hat.  Indeed, I think there’s something Tolkien about the tree, the way it stands in the woodlot medieval in its decay.

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There’s a second tree in the same woodlot that has been worked by a pileated woodpecker. The tree’s long, rectangular excavations exhibit beak-length chisel marks. Fresh wood shavings litter the snow at its base. Occasionally I glimpse the pileated woodpecker, alerted by its insistent hammering; sometimes I see its rapid flight in the opening above the north and south woodlots. New wood shavings attest to the pileated’s presence when sight unseen.

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A hawthorn shrub at the field’s edge tells the story of ruffed grouse and a dinner of frozen apples. Sweeping wing-prints atop the snowpack speak to the multiple courses served; scattered apple-debris beneath the branches testify to the exquisite quality of the meal.

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Within the hawthorns resides a wild rosebush, a prairie rose whose petals in summer are as fragrant and delicate as any perfume. Petals dispersed by the seasons, her rosehips remain crimson against the white snow.

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The snowpack was hard-crusted beneath my snowshoes this afternoon. The sun shone brilliantly in the cold air. The sky, a flawless blue, lent a warmth that was welcomed by my face. I laid on the snow for a short while sunbathing in the January rays. A Sunday such as this is a rare treat. Holding the moment closely, I reflected on Tolkien cottonwoods, fresh wood shavings, delicious apples and summer’s sweet perfume.

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