This Thing Called Courage

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Junipers and One Red Maple

ONCE AGAIN TODAY I SKIPPED MY USUAL Sunday routine, slept in, made vegan chocolate French toast (yum!) then jumped into the beautiful day (sunny and mid-thirites) feet first, with Fionn in tow. We did a great big walk, then, trusty pruners in hand, got to work again rescuing native Junipers along the Fellsway. There's a fairly large pond near where we go (Dark Hollow Pond-- oh those crazy Puritans and their names for things!) and on the eastern side of the pond is a long and quite steep slope, that runs up to the Fellsway. It is along this slope that many of the Junipers grow, as well as the oriental bittersweet that chokes and, eventually, kills the junipers. Today we went all the way down the slope to the ponds edge, something that will be impossible once summer comes, as it becomes impenetrable; and something that has been impossible thus far in the winter, as the slope has been all ice, until today. We cut away bittersweet from maybe six junipers or so, then discovered, way at the bottom of the slope by the pond's edge, a really lovely Red Maple (Acer rubrum) which happens to be another one of my favorite native trees. It's also known as Swamp Maple, for its propensity to grow in low-lying, wettish areas, and its absolutely brilliant red leaves in autumn make quite a holy show, especially at the water's edge, where the reflection gives you twice the bang for the buck. Old Yankees used to call this tree 'The Judas Tree,' as it is the first to change in the fall-- often late summer even. It's also among the very first native trees to bud-out and leaf-out in the spring. In fact its red buds were clearly visible today.

This particular specimen that we found today was being attacked from all sides by the bittersweet, which twisted and vined all the way to the top of the tree. Although we were tired at this point, we just couldn't walk away from such a pathetic site. An all-day chore, but we did three sides and called it a day. Fionn was most cooperative (most of the time) and was content to chew sticks and dig holes while he was tied to a handy branch.

It's really lovely to be outdoors all day long on these late winter days, something I haven't done since I had my landscaping business. One can understand John Muir's quote about the outside vs. the inside, as after it while, it does feel that the outside is really the inside, in terms of the comfort level and the feeling of being 'at home.' Some slowly dying gene, I suppose, from the old days, which, TG, is not quite dead yet. Like the junipers and one red maple we saved today.

(The pic above, taken with my cell phone, shows two junipers at the top of the slope by the edge of the Fellsway (right and left) and then a lovely specimen of juniper with really perfect form (center) across the street, with Spot Pond behind that. The top photo, taken from the Internet, shows a young Red Maple growing alongside a stream in Canada, with its characteristic autumn brilliance.)


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