My photographs do not do justice to the color we saw in the U.P. last week. It was the most and best fall color we’ve ever had north of the Bridge. For one thing, we went up later than usual, but even so, people who live there year-round were saying it was an unusually beautiful autumn.
Some of the color was subtle, and some was spectacular. We were viewing a lot of it in the rain, however, which does make a difference.
Much of the spectacular color, too, we saw along the highway. I’d see something, but then by the time we stopped that particular view was gone, so it was only in an old stumpfield, logged over and burned over long ago, that I finally had time to wander on foot, so many of my scenes of U.P. fall color are miniature in scope, small Arctic landscapes. Bracken, blueberries, reindeer moss, and a few ankle-high seedling trees.
And then came a moment that meant a lot to me, and I cannot begin to explain why. Two years ago I’d stumbled upon a bearing tree, and this year, by diligent searching, I managed to re-find it. It is only a stump among acres and square miles of stumps, but it was once a tree, and the tag on it is a unique place identifier, and the serendipity that first led me to it has endeared it to memory.
When we were planning our drive from Grand Marais to Marquette on H58, I told David I wanted to look again this year for the “witness tree.” Why my mind came up with that name, I don’t know. Technically, a witness tree and a bearing tree are not the same thing, and as I understand it (assuming I do), a witness tree is identified in cases where a bearing tree cannot be marked. Mine is a bearing tree. But witness tree? I love the poetry of names in general and that name, in particular.