Sunday, January 1, 2012

A New Years Eve Moment

For many years now I have canoed or skied past this island point in the Boundary Waters wilderness. I often pause to look at that white cedar that ekes out a delicate living as it clings to the vertical bare rock face. Tenacious trees like this can easily reach several hundred years of age. Growing is slow with no soil and few nutrients but the location does allow it to survive fire and windstorms. A couple of miles away is a cedar that is at least 1500 years old. No doubt, more survive hidden on secluded cliffs across the border that no one has or ever will see. Bonsai relics that give one a kind of peace just knowing they are there.

On my New Years Eve ski this year I passed by this old friend again. The trail of fox tracks made the scene irresistible - two accounts of time played as the falling snow forever covered the fox’s brief story while the old cedar endures. As brief as the fox passing was I saw as much description in the paw print narrative, as a short story in a magazine would tell. I’ve spent a lifetime interpreting those signs and enjoy spending an hour following a trail like this as much as reading a book.

Did an Ojibwa quietly place a tobacco offering from his birch bark canoe in the hole at the base of the cedar tree’s trunk? How much forgotten and lost history has played out in front of this old veteran? What was the name of the last French Voyageur that paddled past the tree in the late 1800’s?

A new numbered calendar of time that we now swap for the old doesn’t mean much in that world. 

 Jim Brandenburg  1.1.12


  1. Absolutely lovely photo as well as your beautiful words. Happy New Year to you! I've enjoyed your photography for many years and hope some day to visit your gallery. In the meantime, I am enjoying the photos I've purchased, your books and your on-line site.
    Lois Sauer
    Rainbow City. AL

  2. Puts a short human life in perspective. Nice reflection.
    /Tomas Järnetun, Sweden

  3. What a great image and a great story. It is certainly interesting to contemplate what might have transpired in front of that wonderful tree.
    Thanks for sharing this evocative moment,

  4. Time and timelessness...

    We are governed by one and enriched by the other. Your thoughts conjured up memories of a 1995 and a solo snowshoe into 'Lost Forty" in Itasca County to pay a midwinter visit to a stand of old growth White Pines you couldn't wrap your arms around.

    From my desk here in Chicago...thanks for the words and image and all the best to you in 2012.

  5. Thanks for sharing, lovely reading. I rely feel related to your thoughts. Its philosophy like this that makes a small stop during a hike ever so much more interesting :). BR Andreas - Norway


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