January 17th (Trees)

A thousand clichés, of which I have been known to indulge, portray winter landscapes as lifeless. I’m trying not to see them that way. These bare trees caught my eye as I left campus yesterday afternoon, and I endeavoured to remember that these are complex living organisms – not merely part of the scenery. I imagined the deep system of roots that quests beneath the ground for nutrients and water, mirroring the way their branches stretch up toward the light.

The second best time to admire winter trees is at sunrise or sunset. The low sun bounces back from their trunks, kindling another set of clichés to do with fire and flame. No, perhaps the second best time to admire winter trees is after a heavy fall of wet snow. The kind that sticks fast to even the most vertical branches, concealing everything in dazzling white.

The best time is at dusk. Their image sinks into blackness, stark against the twilight. Squint and your eyes play tricks of perspective. Are those flat tree cut-outs in the foreground, or are the trees the true reality, possessing the beyond-darkness of deep space? They are certainly other worlds, part of the same rich tapestry of life, known by science yet moving in ways and in dimensions of time and space that are far outside our human experience.

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