Saturday, November 19, 2011

On the strange beauty of trees.

The inspiration for these photos came to me very suddenly. One day last week, during the short walk from the building where I have my office to the Jesuit residence, I took a look overhead and thought, "I should really take some pictures of these trees, while they still have their leaves." On the afternoon and the one following it, I took many pictures of the trees that I see whenever I walk between my home and my office; some of the best of those images - or at least my favorites - are presented here.

Though I don't always pay attention to the trees that I pass each day, I know some people around here who are avid tree-watchers. Having made an effort in recent days to look more carefully at trees that I would otherwise would tend to ignore or to take for granted, I've come to better understand why some regard trees with such great affection.

Trees really can be quite beautiful, especially at this time of the year and in this part of the Northern Hemisphere. These photos show trees in the process of losing their leaves; silhouetted against a late afternoon sky with their trunk and branches increasingly exposed, these trees look very fragile. Appearances can be deceptive, though, for we know that these strong and hardy trees have survived many winters - and will hopefully survive many more.

The longevity of trees has long impressed me. Recalling, for example, of the trees that I saw at the Garden of Gethsemane - trees that do not go back to the time of Christ, but are nonetheless many centuries old - it's hard not to feel a sense of awe at all of the human events that have come and gone in the lifetime of the oldest trees. The trees seen in these photos probably aren't that old in the grand scheme of things, but generations of human activity have nonetheless gone by while they have maintained their inscrutable silence; at the very least, realizations like this should give us a greater dose of humility.

Of course, part of what makes trees so beautiful at this time of the year and in this part of the world is their foliage: many people drive hours for a brief glimpse of trees that are said to have particularly vivid colors on certain fall weekends. I've never gone out of my way for great foliage - why should I, after all, when I can see it in my own backyard?

One thing that particularly caught my attention as I was taking these photos was the effect of the late-afternoon light on the campus trees. For example, take a look at the glow that the sunlight bestows on this tree's trunk and and on its leaves.

The influence of the afternoon sun is also seen in this image, which I like for the particularly intricate, vein-like branches lined with leaves so delicate that they look like they might as well have been applied by hand.

Of course, all of the leaves on these trees eventually find their way to the ground - in fact, at the time of writing, all of the trees in these photos have become bare. Leaves can be quite beautiful on their own, especially when they have colors as vivid as the red in the maple leaves seen here.

I took this photo solely because I liked the way that the colors of the leaves seem to match the chipped and fading paint on the old wooden gate seen here.

Finally, here are many more of those vivid red leaves lying on the ground, waiting to be raked up and taken away by university groundskeepers. Thank you for your indulgence of this unusual photo essay - more typical posting will resume soon. AMDG.


Post a Comment

<< Home