Monday, January 12, 2009

January 12, 2009 - George Washington Forest, Hingham, Massachusetts

I was dumbfounded the moment I stepped into the woods. I'd driven by this stretch of woods hundreds of times in my life - literally - and always admired it from the car widndow. But until that moment, I had no idea of the beauty that awaited beyond the streetside wall of nature.
Perhaps it was the fact that the trail immediately surged up a small hill, making the trees at the crest look even taller than they were. I couldn't tell you at that moment what was on the ground in front of me (other than snow), as my eyes were drawn toward the heavens. There's a reason the term "Cathedral of the Pines" is overused when describing forests of this sort.

But I eventually tore myself away. Like many pine stands, there are two sets of life on display. First, the mature trees, the few that have fought their way to the forest ceiling. They've allowed their lower branches to die off, casting them away in trade for the limbs at their crowns, where their needles will catch the sunlight needed for photosynthesis. Second, on the forest floor wait the next generations. Dozens of young trees stand there, but their future may be bleak. Unless one or more of the old trees dies and opens a hole in the canopy, without sunlight, these young trees are fighting a losing battle. Today, they had their own problems, wilting under the weight of the freshly fallen snow.

I wondered, as I walked, if the lone cross country skier who preceded me here thought about any of these topics. Probably not. Judging by the number of pole thrusts and the fishboning he or she had to do in places, there was obviously a little sweat left behind on the trail. With more snow falling this morning, the walking - or skiing, in this case - hadn't gotten any easier.

At trail crossroads, the sun shined to the forest floor. Only here did the kinglets congregate. Elsewhere, the woods were entirely silent. After twenty-six minutes, I had no desire to turn around, but I had to. The sun was piercing through the trees sideways, and has almost reached the horizon.
Time: 61 minutes.
New species: None!
Stranger hellos: None!
What else got done: Shoveled more snow, lots of nonprofit work, spent time on the playmat with the baby.

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