Monday, January 29, 2007

Weird Wood

Weird title, no?

Yesterday we had our first bonfire of the year. It wasn't a SPECTACULAR bonfire, largely because the dead crap we were burning was very, very wet and it took until 11am to get it going at all. I checked the websites and made sure that there was no burn ban before we lit it, but when I came in and turned on the computer after darkness had fallen, there had been one called shortly after I checked. I might have known! The smoke, instead of wafting gently up, up, and awwaaaaaaayyyy, settled in with the tree trunks and clearings, making a fog of its own in the clear, crisp, and entirely windless day.

Oh well.

The weird part of it is that we encountered, once again, what Fran has termed "piano wood" because the smell it makes when it burns is what he imagines the grand pianos he spent his childhood around would smell like burning. Why is this weird? Well, we have no idea where it comes from. It isn't a tree identifiable to us. Nothing that grows here, anyway. We know well the smell of burning cedar and maple, and the unpleasant (but mercifully brief) tang of the burning vines and half-sprouted leaves of various poking things we decide to eradicate each spring. And this isn't one of them.

We'd kind of assumed, before, that the huge stubs of massive trunks that are littered here and there about the area were just cedars. Cedars that would have dwarfed the ones currently standing around our house but just cedars - a known entity - for all that. They certainly look plenty cedar-ish, what is left of the decaying bark and crumbling innards. But know I wonder, with the repeated appearance of the mysterious piano-wood, what stood in this forest before we were here. Before, judging by the degree of rot in the trunks versus those cut more recently, we were even born.

It would be nice to know, I think. What was here before. Somehow I doubt anyone ever took a picture of this spot before 1980 or so (this house was built in '84), if even then. Some things I can imagine, but others? What was exterminated to make this spot more inhabitable?

I think the mystery of the piano wood will be solved at some point. One day we'll run across a chunk of the stuff that actually LOOKS like something. But I suspicion that it doesn't exist in living form anymore, at least not right here.

There is a hill, by our neighbor's house, that I realized a couple of months ago was not a hill at all. It is the fallen hulk of a humongous tree, its trunk housing a new generation of growth (judging by the size of the new trees, about 10-15 years old). I wonder if at some point it will crumble away, exposing the kids-clubhouse maze of new roots that had wrapped around its exterior...or if it is now a permanent hill, a tiny protection against the erosion that is surely happening as the winter rain pours down the larger hill each year.

Nature is cool.

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