It's been a long time since we used to hike Duke Forest regularly. We watched whole pine forests grow up and be harvested, which makes me feel my age.
Late Sunday afternoon we walked from Mt Sinai Rd, along the Concrete Bridge Road, to the turn to the Wooden Bridge Road. At the bridge we left the road for the foot trails along New Hope Creek. I took photos of the creek, but having fly fished and canoed, I'm always frustrated by the views from the banks because I know all the best views of a creek or small river are from the surface of the water.
Along the trail I found this wonderful patch of "that." At least we've called it "that" for the last twenty five years, seeing it often in spring, without any flowers to aid in identification, and then never noticing it again when it might be blooming. So it remains a mystery, with its variably lobed leaves. If you DO know what it is, please don't disenchant me by providing the name - we're quite happy greeting it every spring with laughter and, "Look - it's that."
Then there were the American beech trees - glorious in their brand new foliage. This one had leaves bursting from spots along the trunk almost to the ground, it seemed so full of itself. Few trees seem as richly alive to me, in leaf or in winter, as beeches.
On the way in and out there was one section that Duke timbered since the last time we came. Broom sedge had grown up to hide the scars of harvesting, and Duke had done a cleaner job than many lumber companies do. What struck awe in me was the seed trees left behind to repopulate the plot. They were so TALL. I snapped numerous pictures of this slope, the road, and these tall silent trees. I couldn't get enough of them, both going in and coming back out.
I hated loblolly pines (pinus taeda) when I first moved to NC back in 1978. They seemed so scrappy and irregular to my northern sensibilities. How did I miss their tall grace, their stately quiet, especially at the edges of the day? Over the years I've grown to love them. There is even one near our house that I have told many of my troubles to, over the years, while making a stone staircase going down the opposite slope.
Then I realized that I had painted these trees and this hillside this winter - it was truly them, though I'd never seen them before, in another case of my paintings happening backwards in time. It was the second in a series with self portrait crow characters - Winter.