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.


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.


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.


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.

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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