Roy downloaded his pictures last night to keep him from getting too involved in the Baylor game. In hindsight, that was a good decision. I loved looking through all the pictures he had taken and deleted several that I did not find too attractive. On our trip I had asked him to take pictures of the dormant trees. He kept calling them dead trees but they aren’t dead, they are in their winter display. This bare bones pageant of the trees draws me in, almost into a hypnotic gaze as I study their structure and limbs. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some trees in the spring, summer and fall but in winter they await their new growth naked and exposed to all who take the time to notice. The trees in their full fall foliage beauty is what the people come to see every year, but a tree standing bravely in the cold is beautiful with the backdrop of the sky to highlight and adorn those limbs with beauty is a celebration in itself. The soft gray of sleep dominates the mountainsides and looks like a dusting of snow. In the midst of this gray palette are the few greens of pine trees and the spotty shadings of red. It is a sight to behold. Many think of winter as a time of death and I guess I would have to admit they are correct. Some people use the word winter to describe their lives or the season they find themselves in. To them, winter is a negative connotation and truly, I understand that. I know at some point and I don’t remember any defining moment, but at some point, my attitude toward winter changed. It is probably the most real of all the seasons. When there are no leaves on the trees, the illusion of being in the middle of the country is lost at Biltmore. Looking across the river at the entrance of the estate you can see the railroad tracks and loading station. The distant lights of Asheville can be seen from the Inn. You can see all the homes that are scattered across the acreage that house essential personnel to the running the estate 24/7. This doesn’t diminish the illusion but it speaks that those things essential to living are near-by. The leaves of spring and summer hide those things. It is easy to be a tree in spring, summer and fall. All it has to do is stand, keeping deeply rooted. In the winter the tree stands against the cold, bitter wind. Every knot hole, damage to its bark and the slight and insignificant stems visible, exposed and that is when the unmasked architecture reveals what is behind the splendor and magnificence of a tree.
Roy teased me all week about my attraction to the trees. He was relentless but I was just as relentless sharing my observations and thoughts of the winter trees in the mountains. The compensation of winter tree observation has transferred over into other matters in finding fascination in the dormant areas of life and even people. So many treasures have been found in lackluster surroundings. Often we read of people discovering coins, jewelry, rare books, and other prized possessions under a layer of ordinary. At first glance only the dated and ugly might be obvious, but with a little investigation and time, something wonderful can be discovered and appreciated.
We are drawn to the flashy and beautiful. We can be taken in with spiritual sounding words, tones, touch and looks. The easy clichés and the practiced stance and looks, transfix and hold until the ‘leaves’ collapse and the true manner is exposed. That is when we find out the wonder of the tree or the person. We are captivated by those who stand and exist in the public arenas that are vulnerable and authentic in their message. They let you see a little bit of their lives as an unleafed tree. They would be foolish to totally unleaf. JWe are interested and amused for a while by those whose leaves never fall or change. Truly they, are but for a season and may even remind us of all the silk and fake finery that can be found in any big box decorative store. The price is right and looks good at first, but then they are nothing but a dust magnet.