Last week I posted a few photos that I took at an area I call “the duck pond”. As I was looking through the photos, I noticed that the fallen tree across the pond had what appeared to be bits of red on the crown. It was some distance away from me so I had not noticed it when shooting. Even in the photograph, I could not tell if these were leaves that had not fallen off the branches or if the tree, though uprooted, was budding.
On Friday, in what may rank as one of the most stupid things I’ve done this year, I decided to find out. As I approached the duck pond, I wandered off the trail and towards the area of the bank where the tree’s root end was. The opposite side of the pond is a difficult to traverse thicket and I was not certain that I could reach the bank. As I approached the tree, I still could not tell exactly what was hanging from the limbs. I was awed by the size of the upended root; it was about 9 feet tall. I’m not sure what inspired — or perhaps possessed — me, but I decided to see if I could climb on to the tree. I put down my pack and placed my camera on the tree trunk. Then, using moves that might have made a final cut in an America’s Funniest Dance Videos competition, I tried to shimmy up the trunk and on to the tree.
I must pause here to give you a bit of backstory. When I was a child, frequently we would play in the woods and along the creeks in our neighborhood. I was always afraid to climb on to any log and I was never able to climb a tree. A combination of fear of heights — which is really a fear of falling — and an almost complete lack of any sort of athletic coordination skills taught me at an early age that I should not even bother to attempt such a feat. Being teased for my unwillingness was always the better option. Nothing in the ensuing decades should have convinced me that I could now do such a thing.
Yet, somehow, I made it on to the tree without getting wet or knocking my camera into the murky pond. The tree trunk was thick and I could barely straddle it. It was too rough, though, to simply crawl on my hands and knees. Slowly, cautiously, I moved along the trunk, catching my pants on the rough bark a few times. After about fifteen feet, I decided to look down. I saw my reflection in the cold water. It yelled “STUPID!!!” at me. I realized that my phone was in my back pocket. I calculated what would happen if I fell in the water: my phone would be ruined; my camera could be ruined too; and I would be cold, wet, and muddy for the nearly two-mile walk home.
But, I didn’t crawl out there for nothing! Though still some distance away, I could tell that the tree had buds. I shot a few pictures of the branches and even one of the interesting water plants that are starting to poke their heads above the waterline. Then, very carefully, I moved in reverse back to the bank. I didn’t chance trying to turn around.
Later, on my walk, I found another tree with these buds. I took a sample home to photograph later. I believe this is a silver maple. Silver maples are plentiful around here. I think I even have a few in my yard. I know how to identify them by their leaves, or with the ever-present, gutter-clogging samara that whirl through the air in late Spring, but I never noticed what the flower buds on the tree looked like. Yet another example of noticing something in nature that I hadn’t before, even though it has been there all the time.