Faces in the Trees

When I sit at my kitchen table I witness an amazing panorama of trees through the picture window. I have the impression that most of the trees are in close proximity, although this is not so. Yet the branches of each tree appear to be reaching out to others and create the feeling of a puppet show or possibly a type of mating dance. I observe numerous figures in this mosaic, but when I turn my head the images are gone.

The wind and the sun affect how the patterns are created. The markings on the trees such as lichen and scars left by lost branches contribute to the plethora of designs as well. The woods in the background and even the small amount of visible space between the trees add to the magic.

When the wind is blowing the feathery boughs of the hemlocks look like alligators, with open saw tooth jaws. On the old gnarled maple, I observed the head of a man with long hair, wearing headgear suggesting a medieval helmet. His features were amazingly clear. One image that wasn’t so fleeting was that of a deer perched on the branches, dining on leaves of another tree. Hmm! Maybe that wasn’t a vision.

The foliage is sparse now but we still have lots of squirrels and interesting birds to grab our attention. A few days ago Marty and I spotted a pair of gorgeous gray birds with bold, black, art deco -style feathering. After checking my bird book, I determined that these were Northern or Loggerhead Shrikes. According to the book, these birds make rare appearances. Since I’ve been looking out of the same picture window for 52 years and haven’t seen them before, I must be right.

Usually we experience a heavy rainstorm before November is over, which brings down the remaining leaves. Then we see into the woods and imagine how the trees will tantalize us during the following summer. But then, aren’t the sculptures formed by drifting snow, mesmerizing?

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“Pickin & Puckin”

My daughter Madeline visited last weekend from Maryland. You can never have too many apples so we went apple picking. We and the other pickers climbed into a wagon to be taken to the site by tractor. Although apple picking tends to be easy and the trees are low and do not require climbing, I experienced more stress on my back, walking amid the trees, than I hoped for. But we each picked an eight- quart bag of apples.  1391629_10201617383109628_131517004_n

As we picked and chatted, I remembered my childhood when I learned how to properly pick.

During World War II, federal agencies were established to alleviate labor shortages. Students were hired to work as agricultural assistants on their school breaks.  A friend of mine had spent a summer picking fruit in California. She taught me how to pick with a bucket around my neck to keep both hands free for picking. The term that was used was “Puckin.”

As an adolescent, I picked lots of fruit in the woods near my parents’ summer home in Middletown, New York. The fruit was probably planted and cultivated at one time, but I remember creeping through briers, escorted by mosquitoes to the various spots. I was rewarded with wonderful blackberries, black raspberries and huckleberries. The huckleberries, though delicious, were a lot smaller than the blueberries that we have today and we didn’t fill a pot too quickly.  Wild strawberries grew near our house; they were sweet but very small. We spent our summers making pies and jam. I can still see my mother’s home -canned berries glistening like jewels on top of her Thanksgiving fruit cup. Although I make my pies and jam pretty much the way my mom did, I froze berries for mid-winter treats.

I demonstrated my “puckin” skills when we visited farms with our children.  While we had to crawl on our knees for the strawberries, most fruits are planted in neat rows with many varieties of plump berries, easy to pick.  It doesn’t take long to “puck” a container of blueberries today. Our own crabapples required more work, but provided us with marvelous jam and applesauce through the entire winter.

On the way back to the car, the tram drove past fields of corn and other fall crops, the tangy fragrance of apples wafting in the crisp October breeze during the ride.  A visit to an orchard is not complete without a stop at the farm market.  We “picked“ up a few things.

A friend of mine said that growing old was a series of “Giving up.” Am I giving up apple picking? I don’t think so!