Pattern of black walnut leaves circling like a school of minnows

Looking up into the canopy of a black walnut tree

Black walnut leaves

It’s June and the trees are in full leaf, lovely green against blue skies.  My eye was caught by the pattern formed by leaves of these black walnut trees as I walked to work yesterday.  Each black walnut leaf is composed of 15 – 23 leaflets arranged alternately on a stem.  They are pinnate compound leaves, with leaflets shaped like feathers.  Looking up, I could see patches of leaves, which formed swirling circles, like a circling school of minnows!  Quite beautiful!

Patterns of black walnut leaves

Horse chestnut tree in flower

I do miss the horse chestnut trees that were removed from our street corner, but I can’t help but notice them around the city right now because they are in full bloom.  And their flowers are gigantic!  I like the Scarlet Horse Chestnut trees — there are a lot of them blooming at the Ballard Locks right now.  Their flowers are like little red Christmas trees decorating the green horse chestnut trees.

Scarlet horse chestnut flowers

Scarlet horse chestnut trees at the Ballard Locks

Towering trees at the Ballard Locks

I really like the shape and arrangement of the leaves of these trees.  Here are some shots looking up into the canopy:

The leaves make a lovely pattern

Horse chestnut trees in Columbia City

“Consider what a vast crop is thus annually shed on the earth!  This, more than any mere grain or seed, is the great harvest of the year.  The trees are now repaying the earth with interest what they have taken from it.  They are discounting.  They are about to add a leaf’s thickness to the depth of the soil. . . . We are all the richer for their decay. . . . It prepares the virgin mould for future corn-fields and forests, on which the earth fattens.  It keeps our homestead in good heart.”
— Henry David Thoreau, “Harvest”

The maintained trail through our woods

My family’s farm is bordered on the south by a small woods.  When I was young, our dairy herd had free run of the woods and adjoining pasture, and it kept the ground well cleared of brush.  It’s been many years since cows have trod through our woods, and the wilderness is taking over.  The woods are brushy with tangled undergrowth, which makes walking more difficult.

My Dad and brothers do maintain a groomed trail that loops around and through the woods so that we can enjoy our walks there.  The cleared path is quiet and sheltered.  This time of year, the path was blanketed with fallen leaves, mostly brown.  The threadbare trees have their own kind of beauty.

“The woods now going threadbare show us the forest’s inner strength.”
— Allen M. Young, Small Creatures and Ordinary Places

I took this week’s Thoreau quote, not from Walden, but from another of his published writings because it reminded me of my walks through the woods at our Minnesota farm.  I invite you to accompany me on a virtual walk through the woods with these photos:

Stalks of goldenrod

The fall colors have muted to browns and greens

The woods are tangled with new growth and brush.

Looking up into the canopy

Looking down onto the leaf-strewn path

Pine cones amidst the pine needles

Fox squirrel

Stripped bark

My brother's hunting blind

“After the leaves have fallen, we return
To a plain sense of things.”
Wallace Stevens, from “The Plain Sense of Things”

Watercolor sketch of red oak leaves from Glenn's memorial tree

Watercolor sketch of white oak leaves

Another watercolor sketch of white oak, red oak leaves and acorns

On Looking Up

June 15, 2010

Canopy of green dappled leaves

How seldom do I look up as I walk around my neighborhood.  By chance I did look up as I passed under some trees on Greenwood Avenue North.  How extraordinarily beautiful was the ceiling of green leaves dappled by sunlight.  It stopped me in my tracks, and the few moments I spent marvelling at the sight made me feel blessed for the rest of the day.  How much do I miss by not looking up?

On Looking Up by Chance at the Constellations
by Robert Frost

You’ll wait a long, long time for anything much
To happen in heaven beyond the floats of cloud
And the Northern Lights that run like tingling nerves.
The sun and moon get crossed, but they never touch,
Nor strike out fire from each other nor crash out loud.
The planets seem to interfere in their curves
But nothing ever happens, no harm is done.
We may as well go patiently on with our life,
And look elsewhere than to stars and moon and sun
For the shocks and changes we need to keep us sane.
It is true the longest drouth will end in rain,
The longest peace in China will end in strife.
Still it wouldn’t reward the watcher to stay awake
In hopes of seeing the calm of heaven break
On his particular time and personal sight.
That calm seems certainly safe to last to-night.