Over the last few years, I’ve been watching this tree die. It’s a Scotch Pine (Pinus sylvestris), I believe. I’ve never gone through the trouble to get a positive identification, in spite of my fascination. It may seem morbid that I’ve taken such an interest in its demise, but this tree has been more than a plant to me. It’s a symbol that even in death, there is a beauty.
The craggy, flaking bark holds the most wonderful textures. Even though it no longer holds the life required to spring forth new needles, its trunk feels solid and strong. It may appear contorted, but seems unmovable when you lay your hands upon it.
A closer look reveals a new life of moss and lichen appearing along its branches. I don’t know how long it will be allowed to stand, but I hope I am able to witness the renewal of life along its bark and branches for years to come.
Life around the Scotch pine continues, ignorant of its neighbor’s demise. A young maple nearby stands leafless but full of samaras, ready to fall or be carried by the wind to nearby soil.
A few scattered leaves hold on to the branches of an oak just a few meters down the hill from where the dying pine stands. The oak is dormant, but already forming the new buds that will burst forth in the spring.
As my lowered my gaze from the oak and took a first step down the hill toward my car, I saw a single dandelion puff – a dandelion in December. I scanned the grass as far as I could see; it was the only one of its kind – a survivor ready to spread its perfectly aligned seeds on the next strong gust of wind.
As I walked down this hill that I’ve known so well, I paused. I looked back and admired the pine, supporting new life even in death. I drew inspiration from all of its neighbors, going about their business of survival. Most of all, I stood in awe of the simple intricacy of it all.