There are an amazing number of things you can discover in a tree: tiny details of the tree, organisms which live in and on and around the tree, distant views, personal insight.
As an amateur photographer, I love taking pictures of our climbing adventures. Many times I'm on the ground helping others experience it for themselves. But when I have the chance to be up in a tree, I like to capture some of the things we discover up there.
Last week I headed to the top of a white oak, where I was able to find a place to stand with my head just feet below the top of the tree.
From that vantage point, I could look across the tops of the neighboring trees and peer through windows in the forest’s skyline. I explored the entire crown, and the view stretched far off to the horizon, which brought on a sense of peace and self-reflection.
Clouds strolled across the sky. Their shadows danced and rays of sun sparkled throughout the canopy. Songbirds sang all around and squirrels gnawed away on walnuts in a neighboring tree. The afternoon culminated as a hummingbird decided to join me, zipping around the tree in pursuit of an afternoon meal.
While it's not exactly like being up there yourself, here are a few moments I caught on film to give you a sense of the things you can discover...
Life in Transition
Insects are typically easy to spot. As we move through the seasons, we can find them in their different life stages if we know what to look for. Occasionally, we find them in the brief moment of transition from one life stage to the next! Here an adult cicada emerges from it pupal casing and pauses while its wings dry out in preparation for flight.
A Fresh Start
As trees resume seasonal growth in the spring, their buds open up to reveal the fruits of their labor from the previous year. Miniature leaves emerge, appearing to be perfect and without flaws before the elements of nature have a chance to impact them.
By the end of the season, many leaves will be tattered and discolored in response to the numerous stresses they encountered during the year. Reading the leaves can help you gain appreciation and understanding for what your companion has been dealing with. Leaf spots, insect activity, nutrient deficiencies, and various environmental stresses work together to create living works of art.
Window on the World
Standing alone at the top of a tree, your body is buzzing with adrenaline. Blood is pumping into your muscles. Your vision tends to focus on the details at hand. Your spirit is in tune with the living being which is holding you high above. Eventually, your vision broadens and becomes aware of the incredible world around you. At this point, you find peace.
Circle of Life
The female gypsy moth, even though it is an invasive insect often causing severe defoliation, is an attractive moth. We often find the caterpillars, with their vibrant red and blue spots, climbing on trunks or even our homes. Not everyone is fortunate enough to see the adult moths, especially in the process of laying eggs!
A gall is a swelling in plant tissue, most commonly caused by a tiny parasitic wasp or mite. These young insects and mites develop inside the swelling protected from predators, yet seldom cause health issues for the tree. Often times, these galls can take on incredible shapes and come in a variety of colors. Often times we can find them in abundance. Other times it is like finding a gem stone in a pile of rocks, like this spiny oak gall.
Trees Have Many Stories To Tell
Sitting with my 92-year-old grandmother, I am treated to stories and insight into what it was like to live during the times I’ve studied in history class. Houses without running water. Home life during the Great Depression. Her time in the work force when Grandpa was overseas during WWII. What has this tree seen in the years it has been growing since the mid-1800’s? Trees can give us a new perspective if we are willing to see it.
As a G.O.T.C. Recognized Master Instructor & Facilitator, I.S.A. Board Certified Master Arborist, and T.C.I.A. Certified Treecare Safety Professional, Curt has spent over 30 years dedicated to the study and care of trees.