Well, who would have thought that Jane Austen would have written my Tuesday Tree post for me? We think of her as foremost a commentator on society; yet the more I re-read her, the more I appreciate her acute observations on all aspects of life. I never expected, however, to discover that she has something to say even about conifers.
This quotation comes from Mansfield Park, chapter 22, courtesy of Talk Like Jane Austen Day.
‘ “The evergreen! How beautiful, how welcome, how wonderful the evergreen! When one thinks of it, how astonishing a variety of nature! In some countries we know the tree that sheds its leaf is the variety, but that does not make it less amazing that the same soil and the same sun should nurture plants differing in the first rule and law of their existence. You will think me rhapsodising; but when I am out of doors, especially when I am sitting out of doors, I am very apt to get into this sort of wondering strain. One cannot fix one’s eyes on the commonest natural production without finding food for a rambling fancy.” ‘
Rambling fancies on common natural productions pretty well sums up Dancing Beastie. Good old Jane.
In illustration of Jane Austen’s point, you might enjoy Autumn under the Douglas firs.
Here is some seasonal colour to share with you this Monday. Spring bulbs on the kitchen table have been cheering me along today, making the whole room brighter. And outside the sun has been shining! Hope your week is off to a good start too.
You might enjoy these bright anemones too.
Up to now I have never re-blogged anyone else’s work on Dancing Beastie. This wonderful post about the Scots Pine has persuaded me to break that habit. It comes from the online magazine ‘The Hazel Tree’, and puts my own amateur tree observations to shame. If there is anything you would like to know about Scotland’s newly-elected national tree, I know that you will enjoy Jo’s appreciation of it, an extract of which is printed below. After all, we are all tree-huggers here!
Originally posted on The Hazel Tree:
Continuing my series on British trees, we’re heading up into the Highlands to stand beneath a beautiful Scots pine…
With a range that stretches from western Scotland to eastern Siberia, the Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) is the most widely distributed conifer in the world. In Britain – and in particular Scotland – there is a strong sense of affection towards this long-lived and majestic tree, which has had much to suffer over the centuries from the spread of human civilisation.
Much of our conifer forest consists of Douglas fir, Norway fir and Sitka spruce, but these species are all recent introductions. The Scots pine is one of only three conifers native to the UK: the others are yew and juniper. (It surprised me that the larch, a deciduous conifer native to central Europe, was only introduced to Britain in the 17th century.)
Another day of dull light, heavy cloud, drizzle. We feel cheated of a proper winter, disorientated. The chain seems to have come off the wheels of the year: we are going nowhere, stuck in endless weeks of mild temperatures, wind and rain, with the odd day of snow or sunshine being the exception that proves the rule.
Out with the dog today, shrouded under hat and scarf, feeling rather left over after a rare late night out followed by an early morning (our son woke us up an hour early for school by mistake), I strode through the trees barely noticing my surroundings. As always, however, the woods began to work their magic on the senses. Scent first: wet earth, dead bracken’s sharpness, clean conifer smell. Then sounds: jackdaws squabbling in the treetops, a pair of mallards quacking over the lochan in flight, a chaffinch warming up his spring song. Listening to the chaffinch, I became aware of how the birdsong in the woods has been gradually increasing over the past few weeks. New notes are added to the repertoire every day: a sure sign that spring is coming.
On the path by the swollen burn I noticed the sharp imprint of a roe deer’s hoof in the mud, like two large almonds side by side. The deer had dug into the ground, moving fast. The prints I’d seen on my last walk were lighter, steady, a deer pottering along by itself. Today something had perhaps startled it as it made its way along the edge of the wood. Many animals and birds share this environment, and not all are friendly to each other. A sparrowhawk took a bluetit from our bird feeder last week.
The dog ran on ahead of me, searching for pheasants. Entering the beech wood, I noticed that some of the wild daffodils are close to flowering. The first of them usually bloom around St. David’s Day (1st March) or a little later, depending on the winter weather. It is such a boost to the spirits to see their sunny faces blazing under the bare trees. Meanwhile the snowdrops have spilled their whiteness down the banks like so much milk: a reminder that, in the old pagan calendar, February brings in the season of Imbolc, ‘ewe’s milk’, the beginning of the lambing season. So the wheels of the year are turning after all.
And raising my eyes to the woods across the river, I notice that the bare twigs of the mossy oak trees are thickening at the tips, and that the trees on this dull day, with their soft, subtle colours, are beautiful.
When you head out for a walk in the woods…
…do you ever, after a while, start to get the feeling…
…that you are being watched?
This is a beech tree, part of an avenue planted for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977. In the course of training up the trees to form a proper avenue, most of their lower limbs were lopped. The later growth around the wounds gives the unnerving appearance of multiple eyes. Actually, my younger son suggested a different bit of anatomy – but I think that eyes are quite bad enough.
These watchful beeches are close to the creepiest tree on the estate, which you can meet in The living dead.
When our younger son opened the shutters of our bedroom window this morning, he let out a bat-high squeal of excitement.
‘Snow! It’s been snowing! It IS snowing!’
Obviously, this would be par for the course in a normal winter: by February we are usually rather fed up of the stuff. (And I am feeling for readers from North America as I write this.) This year, this wettest-since-records-began year, we have barely seen a single snowflake at home. Son dressed for school in a flash and was downstairs, breakfast eaten, and outside building a snowman before the first sip of tea had reached my lips.
At last it feels like winter, just as I was beginning to enjoy snowdrops and think about Spring coming. We knew the snow must come eventually. And coming as a novelty after the incessant rain, how much we relish it! The drive to school, usually through dark, dripping woods, seemed a marvel of ethereal prettiness. The dog went loopy on her morning walk, enjoying the thin crust of snow even more than the boys do. The sun came out and made every thawing raindrop sparkle, before clouds and dropping temperatures brought further light snowfalls this afternoon.
These, then are our trees this Tuesday, along with one or two other shots from the day.
At last, a rare frosty start gave way to a sunny morning. I’ll repeat that: a sunny morning. That makes, what, three this year!
And out in the sunlight, the snowdrops are opening in their droves, the prettiest foretaste of spring.
You might enjoy A stroll amongst the snowdrops.