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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Our Fellow Time Travelers of the Plant Kingdom

When we think of fall color, we usually think of deciduous trees, such as maple, ash, oak and beech--those trees that lose their green leaves every winter but not before letting the chlorophyll seep away, leaving colors from pale yellow through butternut and orange to flaming red and deep russet. The only coniferous trees that change color and drop their needles are the larches, or tamarack. Say “fall color,” and who would respond, “Blue spruce”? And no, the spruce needles have not changed color. It’s simply that some of these trees are now wearing red garlands of Virginia creeper, as if someone had decorated them early for the holidays.

Trees of a different kind are featured in Ladislav Hanka’s hauntingly beautiful book, The Crooked Tree Prints, now available at Dog Ears Books. When Hanka set out to explore the way Native Americans had used living trees as place and directional markers in northern Michigan, he learned that only a few of those old trees are still standing, and perhaps the artist in him was for that reason compelled all the more strongly to record their existence and to forge a personal connection with them. Hanka’s pencil sketches and his monochromatic photographs, as well as his copperplate etchings (the fullness of his art), capture the paradoxical timelessness of these venerable woodland neighbors. The bilingual text, with Hanka’s English translated into Anishinaabemowin by Zhiibaasige, provides yet another port of entry--a dual port, so to speak--into this aesthetically, culturally and historically rich subject. This is not an ordinary book but a spiritual creation, so come in to soon to see it for yourself.

Finally, for another look at trees, look at what Gerry found in the Antrim County woods.


Anonymous said...

I always think autumn colors show best against some evergreens--or reflected in a lake. Now that I think of it, there are a million ways autumn can knock me out.

Those do look like Christmas!

P. J. Grath said...

Rats! Not you, Gerry--me! On the way home from Traverse City today (and TC at this time of year is, IMO, TC at its most beautiful), I thought of a better title for this post, and now I've forgotten what it was. Anyway, in addition to the colors this week we've had such gorgeous, sunny, balmy weather that it's been heaven on earth.

Dawn said... the red virginia creeper and the blue spruce!!!

P. J. Grath said...

Somehow it's more striking in "real life," Dawn, but I couldn't resist posting the images.