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Entries in forest (4)


Ten on Ten: Restart, Home

Looking back at it now, I can see I am a child of deep woods.  I was too little to notice then.  I saw the red clay earth under my fingernails, of course.  Heard the hot percussion of rain falling on the tin roof of the cabin my dad built, the urgent burbling of the creek that ran behind his house after the rain, and the crunching of leaves under my feet in autumn as I beat a path - back and forth through the woods, a million times a week - to my best friend's house.  I saw trees, trees, trees, a dense verticality between me and the world.

I wanted out.  I wanted city, and things to do, and sidewalks, and drywall, and next-door neighbors.

Now when I go back I see the forest.  It takes my breath away.

We were there over the holidays.  When I go home now, I ache for the woods.  I want to walk in them and notice everything.  They feel exactly the same, and also nothing like I remember.  I notice how brutal and delicate they are, how rich.  Life grows over life here, fallen trees slowly eaten by water and moss and vines.  The carpet of leaves shed by innumerable deciduous trees are a wet mulch on winter ground.  I am always surprised at the feelings that rise in me, a tender loving familiarity. 

Ezra loves it there.  Being with his grandparents is a big draw, of course, but he resonates with quiet, and space, and sticks and rocks and running water.

(Twice this week he has told me he wants to live back there, and I have to laugh at the inevitability of running from a place only to have your child long to return.  It is the migrant's tale, no?)

I might be tempted to relegate this all to the closet of sentimentality, but when I was home I ran into a childhood friend named Sampson Starkweather.  He's a poet based in Brooklyn now, but his sharp memory of what seems like every detail of coming-of-age and the deep sense of place in many of his poems confirms for me the power of these woods.  In his brilliant new book he writes:

I know you need the city but we all have our forests.

A place for things to grow or fail... to go unnoticed.

A place for things to fall.  I am speaking of the heart.

Like Ezra, I apparently resonate with sticks and rocks and running water.  But I also resonate with the idea that perspectives change.  That we can restart our relationship with a world, a person, life. 

I love my adopted home of Colorado, the wide horizon, the enormous sky, the dry air, the family I've built.  And I know that no matter where I go, these woods are imprinted on my bones.  I'm not running from that anymore.

My little photography blog circle is examining the idea of "restart" this month in our 10 on 10.  I can't wait to see how the lovely and talented Tara Romasanta is restarting in this new year.  Hop on over here to see what beauty she has in store.


No Horizon

226.365 50mm f2.5 1/100 ISO 200I find that, here in North Carolina, I want to take lots of closeup shots.  The flowers, the bugs, the green-ness.  I feel like it's a little bit of a cop-out to wander around with the macro tube confident that it will serve my needs.  But when I got to my Dad's house yesterday I realized why that might be: there's no horizon here.  I'm used to being able to see for miles and to reaching for my wide angle lens.  Here there are no long views.  The woods enfold you and that dense tangle becomes your view.  (I took this same shot off the back deck last winter.  Even when the leaves are on the ground you can't see much.)

I know this should fall into the category of Duh.  I grew up in this house, cutting trails through that very scene.  (My best friend's house and the pond where we swam were both through those woods.)  But I'm only now beginning to see it as a photographer, a whole different kind of seeing.  I am charmed by the dappled light and by all the little layers of life (that lend themselves to macro) but it would take longer than I have on this vacation to figure out how to see the place in medium or wide shot.


Vertical Tangle

77.365 18mm f9 1/60 ISO 200I noted on the day I made the pinecone shot that the density and verticality of the woods here make it difficult to compose an image that the eye and the mind can receive in any way that makes sense.  No sooner had I written those words did it dawn on me that I had to at least try to do that while I'm here. 

I think the snow helped, since the stark white sets off the tall dark tree trunks so well.  The contrast organizes the scene in a way the normal monochrome winter brown only further confuses.  Shooting off the back porch when the sun came out this morning, I felt like this may not be the most inspired composition.  But it is what I'd imagine Narnia looks like when you come out the back side of the wardrobe.


Winter Woods

75.365 50mm f1.4 1/250 ISO 200I walked through the woods around my father's house yesterday afternoon, the woods my best childhood friend and I beat paths between each other's houses through.  The sheer verticality and density of the woods makes it hard to organize visually in a viewfinder, but when you look down all kinds of little treasures await your notice. 

I love the monochrome in this scene and the way the f1.4 points your attention to exactly the right place.