Tag Archives: tree

Getting a Lift


Now, if I were to tell you that someone got a “lift”, what would you think I was talking about?  A face lift perhaps?  Or perhaps some other part of the anatomy that was drooping?

We also use the term lift to describe an uplift of the spirit and emotion.  In England, a “lift” is an elevator.  We lift a box to put it on a shelf.  In an auto repair shop, a lift is what is used to hoist a car up in the air.

No matter what kind of lift you are talking about, the idea is the same: to raise something up!

In today’s photo, this truck got a “lift”, too, but it was caused a seedling that had to be in place when the truck was put in the woods.  Over the  years that the hulk of the truck sat there, the little seedling was patient – getting what water and sunlight it could – and it kept growing, patiently.  And look at the result!  The little seedling grew right up through the bed of the truck in order to reach its own goal – to be straight and tall and to touch the face of the sky!

It’s easy to give up sometimes, to feel that things are just too tough, too hard, to believe that our position in life isn’t adequate for human flourishing.  Maybe we can learn something from this little seedling.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in 1862, the Civil War exploded in the west as the armies of Union General Ulysses S. Grant and Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston collided at Shiloh, near Pittsburgh Landing in Tennessee. The Battle of Shiloh became one of the bloodiest engagements of the war, and the level of violence shocked North and South alike.

For six months, Yankee troops had worked their way up the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers. Kentucky was firmly in Union hands, and now the Federals controlled much of Tennessee, including the capital at Nashville. Grant scored major victories at Forts Henry and Donelson in February, forcing Johnston to gather the scattered Rebel forces at Corinth in northern Mississippi. Grant brought his army, 42,000 strong, to rendezvous with General Don Carlos Buell and his 20,000 troops. Grant’s objective was Corinth, a vital rail center that if captured would give the Union total control of the region. Twenty miles away, Johnston lurked at Corinth with 45,000 soldiers.

Johnston didn’t wait for Grant and Buell to combine forces. He advanced on April 3, delayed by rains and muddy roads that also slowed Buell. In the early dawn of April 6, a Yankee patrol found the Confederates poised for battle just a mile from the main Union army. Johnston attacked, driving the surprised Union troops back near a small church called Shiloh, meaning “place of peace.” Throughout the day, the Confederates battered the Union army, driving it back towards Pittsburgh Landing and threatening to trap it against the Tennessee River. Many troops on both sides had no experience in battle. The chances for a complete Confederate victory diminished as troops from Buell’s army began arriving, and Grant’s command on the battlefield shored up the sagging Union line. In the middle of the afternoon, Johnston rode forward to direct the Confederate attack and was struck in the leg by a bullet, severing an artery and causing him to quickly bleed to death. He became the highest ranking general on either side killed during the war. General Pierre G. T. Beauregard assumed control, and he halted the advance at nightfall. The Union army was driven back two miles, but it did not break.

The arrival of additional troops from Buell’s army provided Grant with reinforcements, while the Confederates were worn out from their march. The next day, Grant pushed the Confederates back to Corinth for a major Union victory.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  When a shark eats food that it can’t digest (like a turtle shell or tin can), it can vomit by thrusting its stomach out its mouth then pulling it back in.

Strange Twisting Tree

I’ve seen some incredible trees in my life.  There are the ancient bristle cone pines here in California are supposed to be the oldest living trees on earth, with one that is 5063 years old!!!  (Now that’s even older than me!!!)  Then there are the giant sequoia trees that reach heights in excess of 311 feet and diameters greater than 56 feet.  These trees may annually disperse between 300-400,000 seeds!  In Lahaina, Maui, is an incredible banyan tree.  In Africa I saw baobab trees that were of immense size.  As the poem by Joyce Kilmer says, “Poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.”

When we were hiking near Lake Tahoe, we came across an interesting tree.  It wasn’t as big as a Sequoia or as old as a bristle cone pine, nor did its branches drop to the ground and make new roots to support the branches like the banyan tree.  But it was quite an interesting tree.  I’ve never seen a tree do this before….where a branch grew out sideways out of a trunk, then turned skyward and re-merged with another branch.  It was interesting because it appeared as if the tree had at one time been struck by lightning and it blew the top of the tree off because there were strange branches like this all growing out of the same area on the tree and there really wasn’t any main trunk going up from that spot.

Ah, sweet mysteries!  Don’t you love it when life is full of wonder and makes you ponder something new?
_MG_7808ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: For nearly two months following the Battle of Chickamauga, the Confederates, commanded by General Braxton Bragg, had pinned the Union army inside Chattanooga. They were not able to surround the city, though, and occupied Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge to the south and east of the city instead. In late October, arriving to take command, Union General Ulysses S. Grant immediately began to form an offensive. On October 27, Union troops attacked Brown’s Ferry southwest of Chattanooga and opened the Tennessee River to boats that brought much needed supplies to the besieged Yankees.

On November 23, Grant began to attack the center of the lines around the city. Lookout Mountain lay on the Union’s far right, and the action there commenced on November 24. Yankee General Joseph Hooker commanded this wing, and his men advanced toward the fog-covered peak. Hooker did not plan to attack the entire mountain that day, thinking the granite crags would be difficult to overcome. The fog masked the Union advance, however, and Hooker’s men climbed relatively easily. The Confederates had overestimated the advantages offered by the mountain, and 1,200 Rebels faced nearly 12,000 attacking Yankees. Artillery proved of little use, as the hill was so steep that the attackers could not even be seen until they appeared near the summit. Bragg did not send reinforcements because the Union attack against the Confederate center was more threatening than the sideshow around Lookout Mountain. The Confederates abandoned the mountain by late afternoon. The next day, Union forces launched a devastating attack against Missionary Ridge and successfully broke the Confederate lines around Chattanooga.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  According to the National Wild Turkey Federation, the number of wild turkeys in the US has increased from an all time low of 30,000 to more than four million today. One state park in Iowa now boasts more than 100 turkeys per square mile. (Strangely enough, I think that must be the place where most of my turkey relatives live!!!!)

…the Tough Get Growing

People are so fascinating.  Some are artistic while others (like me!) can’t draw a stick figure.  Others can sing like a song bird while others (like me!) struggle to carry a tune.  Some are physically fit while others (like me!) need to get into shape!

There’s an old saying about the tough folk: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going!”  And you know what?  There’s a ton of truth in that statement.  People either suck it up and get tough enough to face the challenges that they face or they crumble at the first taste of real adversity.

Today’s photo is a slight twist on that saying: “When the going gets tough, the tough get growing!”  I just don’t pretend to understand how this tree, located on a mountainside at around 7000 feet above sea level, managed to even start growing in this solid rock spot, let alone grow to the size of a tree that it is.  I picture the winter blizzards and windstorms whipping down the sheer mountainside out of view to the right of the picture and wonder how the roots could possibly be strong enough to hold this tree vertical.  All I can say is, “This is one TOUGH tree!”  But life is that way…life is strong!!!!

_MG_7670ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1820, the American whaler Essex, which hailed from Nantucket, Massachusetts, was attacked and sunk by an 80-ton sperm whale 2,000 miles from the western coast of South America.

The 238-ton Essex was in pursuit of sperm whales, specifically the precious oil and bone that could be derived from them, when an enraged bull whale rammed the ship twice and capsized the vessel. The 20 crew members escaped in three open boats, but only five of the men survived the harrowing 83-day journey to the coastal waters of South America, where they were picked up by other ships. Most of the crew resorted to cannibalism during the long journey, and at one point men on one of the long boats drew straws to determine which of the men would be shot in order to provide sustenance for the others. Three other men who had been left on a desolate Pacific island were saved later.

The first capture of a sperm whale by an American vessel was in 1711, marking the birth of an important American industry that commanded a fleet of more than 700 ships by the mid 18th century. Herman Melville’s classic novel Moby Dick (1851) was inspired in part by the story of the Essex.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  Australian scientists have identified some species of baby spiders that bite off the limbs of their mothers and slowly dine on them over a period of weeks. The researchers hypothesize the maternal sacrifice keeps the young from eating one another.  Now THAT’S motherly love!!!

Eaten by a Tree!!!!

There are many creatures in this world that could eat a human being.  Lions, tigers, crocodiles, alligators, grizzly bears, Kodiak bears, polar bears (I’m told that they’re the only mammal that will deliberately stalk a human being just in order to eat them!), killer whales, great white sharks, hammerhead sharks, tiger sharks, mako sharks, kimodo dragons…and others, I’m sure.  It is almost enough to make one not want to go outside.  (Though we’re fairly safe here….I’ve never heard of a gang of ruthless ground squirrels taking down a full-grown human being!  Kids maybe, but not full-grown adults!)

Think about some of the great movie scenes: Quint being eaten by the great white in Jaws, people being eaten by Godzilla (what?  You mean that wasn’t real?)  James Bond movies with sharks that eat victims who fall through they floor when they made the bad guy angry or failed in their task to kill the great 007.  Movies like Legends of the Fall had Brad Pitt being killed (and presumably eaten) by a great grizzly.  It is quite enough to give a kid fears that some night, Tank (the family chihuahua) may get ravenously hungry and in the morning when mom comes in to get the little kid out of bed, she’ll find him/her missing and a fingernail protruding from sweet little Tank’s mouth!

As if all that wasn’t bad enough, now I’m going to really strike fear in your hearts with today’s photo.  You probably aren’t in danger of being eaten by a tiger or polar bear or crocodile.  But what about that lovely, shady tree in your front yard?  You may have watched the Lord of the Rings movies when two hobbits are lost in Fangorn forest and the trees start to pull them into the ground to have them for dinner (fertilizer)?  You thought that was just all made up stuff, right?  WRONG!  I offer this photographic proof, taken at Young’s Winery in Plymouth, California.  If I’d not heard this fellow whimpering, I probably would have missed this scene entirely!  You can see the poor fellow is turning bluish-green from lack of oxygen.

Okay, kiddies!  Time for bed!!!!!  Isn’t that a nice shade tree outside your window????!!!!

_MG_6423ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: Woodrow Wilson Guthrie, whom Bob Dylan would later call “the true voice of the American spirit,” a native of Okemah, Oklahoma, was born in 1912 and thus entered adulthood just as America entered the Great Depression. Already an accomplished, self-taught musician, Woody Guthrie began writing music in earnest following his experiences traveling west to California with other Dust Bowl refugees in the 1930s. His first public exposure came during the latter part of that decade as a regular on radio station KFVD Los Angeles, but his most important work took place following a move to New York City in 1939.

In his first two years in New York, Guthrie made a series of landmark recordings for Alan Lomax of the Library of Congress as well as the album Dust Bowl Ballads, which served as the first introduction for many to a form that Guthrie helped pioneer: protest folk. Most famously in “This Land Is Your Land”—written in 1940 and first recorded in 1944—Guthrie fused long-established American musical traditions with a populist, left-wing political sensibility to create an entirely new template for contemporary folk. In so doing, of course, he laid the groundwork not only for the great folk revival of the 1950s and 60s, but also for such iconoclastic heirs to that movement as Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen.

In his late 30s, Woody Guthrie began to fall ill, displaying the ambiguous physical and psychological symptoms of what would eventually be diagnosed as Huntington’s chorea, a genetic disorder that had probably killed his mother in 1930. In the 1950s, treatment for Huntington’s generally meant institutionalization in a psychiatric hospital, and Woody Guthrie spent his final 12 years in such facilities. In fact, it was in New Jersey’s Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital that a young Bob Dylan first encountered the man he’d traveled all the way from Minnesota to see.

Woody Guthrie was moved to Brooklyn State Hospital in 1961 and again in 1966 to Creedmore Psychiatric Center in the borough of Queens. He died at Creedmore on this day in 1967, at the age of 55.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: In all of history, the most destructive disease is malaria. More than 1.5 million people die from malaria every year.  Some estimates say that throughout history, 1 out of every 2 persons who have ever lived died from this disease.


Desire to Live

Life is fragile.  Life is hearty.  Life is an enigma.

Whatever else may be said for life, life does go on.  For countless generations, like a wheel spinning endlessly, humans have gone on.  Trees and flowers and birds and alligators…seemingly in an unending circle of life.

Every now and then we see evidence of the persistence of life.  It may be something as small as a blade of grass that breaks the surface of an asphalt parking lot.  It may be a tiny, pre-mature baby that, in spite of all the odds stacked against her, survives and grows to live a full life.

On a recent hike through the woods to a water fall, we passed today’s scene by the side of the trail.  It’s a scene that could easily have been missed, because on the ascending part of the trail heading towards the falls from the parking lot, it looks like a rock pile with a tree growing on the other side of it.  But, once you get on the other side, you can see that the tree wasn’t growing out of the dirt on the other side, but it grew as a tiny seed that got down inside of a very large rock and it flourished and grew until split the massive rock.  In the picture you can clearly see the lower part of the trunk in between the rock slabs that it split.  Pretty cool, eh?

Life is not only hearty…it is precious.  We need to appreciate it more than we do!

A tiny seed split the rock...

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: Golda Meir was sworn in as Israel’s fourth Prime Minister.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: California boasts the lowest and  highest points in the continental United States.  Death Valley is 282 feet below sea level, while Mt. Whitney is 14, 491 feet above sea level at its peak.

White Bark

My dog, Casper, is white.  From the title of today’s post, you might think I’m talking about him and his speech patterns.  I’m not.  Although I’m always willing, proud and able to wax eloquent about the wonderful qualities of my buddy!!!!

Today’s photo was taken in the same garden at Ferrari-Carano Winery where I shot yesterday’s picture.  In a shady section of the garden, I almost walked right past this tree with white bark (I think it may be a white birch?)  It’s a shame how many times we walk past things that are beautiful, but in our hurry to get where we’re going or to catch up with someone else, we miss the beauty right next to us.  It almost happened with this picture.

You may wonder what the “glowing” area in the area right behind the upper portion of the tree….well, wonder no more, for I’ll tell you.  It was a beautiful bed of flowers, but because I was shooting with a fairly wide aperture, it is blurred and just looks like a bit of smoldering hot coals.  This picture was shot at 135mm, 1/100th second, f-stop 5.6 at ISO 800 (thought I’d start sharing some of that info from time to time for those who are interested.)  One of the things I’m working on is learning to “see” like the camera would “see.”  For instance, to the human eye, as I stood before the branches of this tree, when my eyes drifted to the golden flowers in the background, they were instantly in focus.  Cameras don’t see things like that…they have limited planes of focus, and the photographer needs to learn to think about what the camera will see…and adjust it accordingly to capture the image the way the photographer wants it to be captured.  I’ve got a long way to go, but slowly…I think I’m getting a bit better at it!

The tree in the center of the garden...

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in September 1959, the first Barbie doll was sold.  Of course, the original is now a collector’s item worth a LOT of money!!!!  Who’d a thunk it back in 1959?

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: the banana and the Bird-of- Paradise flower are in the same family!!!!

Tree of Life?

If you ever attended Sunday school, you know the story about the garden of Eden and Adam and Eve.  In the garden was a tree – called the Tree of Life.  No one knows what kind of tree it was, other than the fact that it bore fruit that appealed to the human eye.  Many, because apples are pretty and shiny, think it was an apple tree…hence the story about Eve eating the apple!  (Personally, I think if it had been a peach tree, with gorgeous, plump orange and red peaches it would have been more tempting!!!!)  Just out of curiosity, what kind of fruit tree to YOU think it was?

Because the tree in today’s photo doesn’t have fruit, I know it couldn’t have been the tree of life…but it has caught my eye the past few evenings.  It sits directly across the street from our place and I finally found time (I’ve been busy lately!) to get the camera and grab a quick shot or two.  OK, so it’s not the tree of life, but it could be the “tree of delight” because it is so pretty.

Now, I think I’ll got eat an apple or a peach!!!!

Tree of Delight????

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1492, Columbus started to “sail the ocean blue” at the head of a three-ship flotilla (Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria), in search of “Cathay” (China).  They found the Caribbean instead (although those who lived in the Caribbean area never knew it was lost!)  Columbus sailed a total of 4 times to the Americas.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: in Australia, the favorite pizza topping is eggs.  In Chile, it is mussels and clams.  In the United States, it’s pepperoni.  Aren’t  you glad you live in America?????


One of the things that intrigues me is rather abstract, but let me see if I can explain it.  We are all very keenly aware of our own thoughts and our own situation: we hopefully know where we are, why we are there, what we are doing, where we are headed.  We all operate in our own realm of consciousness – and we can’t get out of it.  In particular, we can’t get into the consciousness of others.  Each day as I go about my business in my consciousness, my family members are going about the reality of their life in their own consciousness.  I can’t see or know what they are feeling.  I can try to picture what they are doing, but at best, it’s only a guess.

I sometimes think about inanimate objects in the same way.  For example, when I walk through a redwood forest that is 1000-1500 years old, I look at the incredibly huge and ancient trees and try to picture what they have witnessed – all they have seen – over the years.  But, of course, trees don’t have eyes nor can they see.  But I still ponder it: I will look at a particularly large tree and think about how that tree must have seen native American Indians walking through that forest, of the fires that swept the area but which the tree managed to survive.  Of the cold, the heat, the animals that found rest under its sheltering canopy.

Today’s post is titled “Sentinel” because it is a shot of a tree standing in water – a different tree than I showed a couple of days ago, and I can’t help but wonder what all this tree has witnessed…what kind of stories it might be able to tell if it had a tongue and lips and could form words.  In Yosemite, I think the same things about El Capitan or Half Dome.  It is pointless, I know, to ponder such imponderables, but I find delight in trying to imagine such things.

I hope you enjoy “Sentinel!”


The Sentinel


ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1898, the American battleship “Maine” was blown up while at anchor in Havana harbor at 9:40 p.m.  The ship sank quickly and 260 members of the crew were lost.   “Remember the Maine!” became the war cry and a formal declaration of war against Spain was issued on April 25.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: after her successful role in The Miracle Worker, Patti Duke became the first American teenager to be given her own television show, The Patti Duke Show, that ran from 1963 through 1966.