Wish I'd Said It

Weeds are flowers too - once you get to know them.

- A. A. Milne

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Singing Trees (#179)

In the north cedar grove there’s a tree which is leaning against its neighbour, a fellow cedar. They’re both tall, about 50-plus feet, healthy, and slender -- though fortunately for the tilting one, its supportive neighbour is somewhat thicker.

I became aware of them on a windy day because sound is created when their trunks and branches rub together. Sometimes it sounds like a grunt, sometimes a moan, sometimes a squeak. I suppose lots of factors affect the tones: wind speed, the dryness/dampness of the bark, the temperature.

This morning was the first autumn day that offered a hint of the season to come – a fierce north wind and plummeting temperatures arrived hard on the heels of an overnight rain. The predicted high was 5C (41F) and the current temperature was 3C (37F).

I rooted around in my closet and donned my camo jacket for the first time in a few months. Was pleased to find a small bottle with a sip’s worth of belly warmer in one pocket. Slightly less pleased to find dozens of bits of crumbled peanut shells in the other. There was also a glove in each, though I likely wouldn’t need them.

By the time Ben and I got to the corner, 90 seconds into our walk, I was fishing around for those gloves. The wind whipped leaves into a frenzied blur of gold, red and orange. Ben was mesmerized. There were too many, moving too quickly. He couldn’t isolate a target.

My eyes teared constantly until we got to the shelter of the grove. I paused there to wipe them and my glasses. That’s when I heard it.

The two cedars were singing. It was high-pitched, nearly flute-like, and oddly familiar. Oddly, because although I’d heard many such leaning trees and rubbing limbs over the years, they tended to have a repetitious, one or two-note sound.

Today’s tones were not like that at all. There were some sharp, staccato notes and some that held longer. I was nearly positive that I had never heard trees making sounds that were so musical. Yet, it was familiar.

As you’re well aware of by now, Benny’s strong suit is not patience. He’d spent two whole minutes exploring the immediate area while I was paused and now it was time to move along.

I don’t believe I’ve mentioned the technique he uses to get my attention when he decides I’ve lingered in one place for a nanosecond longer than he thinks is prudent.

He runs full tilt towards me - could be from any direction - leaps, turns his body to the side and slams into me with all four paws before bouncing off, landing upright and prancing away.

If I don’t get the hint immediately, it’s obviously because he caromed off the wrong part of my body. So he tries it again from another direction. The worst ones are from the front when I’m gazing upward at birds. Luckily, I’ve had all the children I want and a higher voice is sort of natural when a guy gets old.

Wiping futilely at the muddy paw prints on my jeans, I acquiesced to his suggestion and moved along.

I soon became absorbed in looking for birds and watching squirrels and catching glimpses of salmon and forgot about the song until we re-arrived at the grove on the homeward leg of our walk.

Daring to test Ben’s patience yet again, I stopped for a moment to listen while imbibing a wee drop of belly warmer.

Suddenly, it clicked. I knew where I’d heard similar music.

Of all things, the intermittent, flutey sighing, up and down the scale, sounded like the calls of whales. There was a distinct similarity to the haunting, plaintive sounds I’d heard countless times on television.

I had about 20 seconds to listen and savour the realization before Ben literally kick-started me back towards food and warmth. As we walked, the song fading behind with every step, I mused about long-lived, majestic giants of land and sea and Nature’s little miracles.


Dawno said...

It would be lovely if you could catch a recording of the singing trees and upload it to your blog.

Reb said...

Oh, that must have been wonderful to experience.

Aren't you glad Benny isn't a Great Dane?

Leah J. Utas said...

How beautiful. The haunting song of trees.

Stace said...

Whale trees! That sounds just beautiful. Poor little impatient Benny, if only dogs could appreciate music :( hehe

Frank Baron said...

It would indeed Dawno but I think the chances of the exact conditions being duplicated again are pretty remote. I wish I had one with me though.

Reb, I'm VERY glad Ben's not a Great Dane. :)

It was indeed a wonderful experience Leah.

Stace, it was beautiful. And if music had a smell, Benny would no doubt love it.

Hilary said...

Sounds lovely. I know I've heard the creaks and groans before but not singing. Point those trees out to me the next time we walk in that grove, ok? Umm that ought to be in about 5 minutes. ;)

Dianne said...

the image of benny slam dancing is so delightful. I know your - uh - gentleman's equipment could do without it but still ...

I wish you could teach nature appreciation to the people around me. there's so much cut this down, move this here, make a deck, cover the grass going on I swear I can hear Mother Nature screaming

I take solace though in the notion that when Mother Nature decides to get back I'll be safe :)

Frank Baron said...

And so I did, Hil. :)

Dianne, Mother Nature has a way of getting her message across when she's not pleased. I too wish more people weren't so separated from her.

MagnoliaGirl said...

Ahhh, two of my favorite things - trees and music! And together, there is nothing more therapeutic in the world, in my humble opinion...

Thank you, Frank. Please keep taking us all on yours and Ben's journeys.


Anonymous said...

sounds like a perfect walk! All good things included- beauty, music, a good drink, and an enthusiastic sidekick!

Frank Baron said...

I agree MG. Thanks for the kind words. I hope to be writing about our small adventures for quite some time. :)

You're right Meredith, it was. I'm a lucky guy. Thanks for the visit. :)

photowannabe said...

The song of the whale and the song of trees..what a beautiful picture you painted. I'm glad that that crazy Benny gave you a snippet of magic before moving on.

Frank Baron said...

I'm glad too PW. Thanks for taking the time. :)

Anonymous said...

Singing Cedars! I've heard recordings of whales, so I am going to close my eyes and try to bring up the memories of the scent of cedar, a cold wind, the sound of whales, and...
Oomph! Your sweet little dog just slammed me. ;)

Kappa no He said...

Gorgeous! And hey, I ordered your book on Amazon the other day. Can't wait for it to arrive.


Anonymous said...

Kappa No He, you are going to love it!

Each time I go to the local lending library, I look for Frank's book. I enjoyed watching it become dog-eared and faded as more people received enlightenment.

It was in the Sports-Fishing area, on the shelf above tomes on Writing. Most appropriate, I thought. I always straightened it and moved it the front edge of the shelf so it would look ready to go!

On my last two trips, Frank's book was not there. Beginning to worry, I checked the on-line catalog. The Baltimore County Public Library owns seven copies of "What fish don't want you to know". My branch is no longer among those with a copy. (Sniffle here and hold back a tear as your silenced voice begins to waver a bit.)

Six of the copies are available (just in case you are in the area and in need of a GOOD read). The seventh copy is listed as "MISSING" since 12/07.

I have mixed feelings about this. If someone really had to own a copy, then I hope it serves him or her as well as my copy serves me. (I first read the book when I borrowed it from the library.) It struck me that perhaps it was removed, not to be returned, and put to use as a Christmas or other holiday gift.

Of course, I am saddened that many people will not have the chance to learn those two ways to catch fish from that missing volume. I believe anyone with a love of nature; streams, rivers, lakes and their environs will appreciate all, but maybe one page, of The Book.

Travel safe good book, the WingWriter’s and Kappa No He's of the world need you.

Frank Baron said...

KC, don't say I didn't warn you about the little rascal! ;)

Hope you enjoy Terrie. Let me know. (And if you email me your snail mail address, I'll be happy to sign and mail a bookplate out to you.)

Bruce, I don't think I could hire a better PR guy! Thanks very much. Now, I'm going to have to find out which page you're talking about....

Kappa no He said...

Thanks Frank. I will! I just got the confirmation from Amazon today. Any minute now my little mail dude should be showing up with it in his hot little hands.

Crabby McSlacker said...

Whales in the woods, what a surreal experience! Love the idea of singing cedars.

(And a beautifully written post, what a pleasure to read.).

Frank Baron said...

Let me know when it lands Terrie.

Crabby, you are woefully misnamed. You have a generous, sweet spirit. :)