Birch Bark Prints
Birch trees have always been special to me. In a forest with many birch, they seem to be picture frames for the woods full of bushes, ferns, brush, twisted new growth of small tree’s competing for sky, and the anarchy of the scattered dark dead branches of the low section of old pines that lacked the light to stay green. The bright colors of the birches… pinks, whites, yellows, the gently peeling bark and fine edges of the trees thrust upward from the ground through the middle section of the woods to the blue light above joining the tops of the green pines. Their light bark is the forest’s window frames. Wherever you look they give an abstract structure to the entire forest’s internal landscape. They are the bones of the woods, it feels like they hold it together; they are the wooden sunbeams that go from sky to ground to sky, they give hope to the darkness. They are the stars of the forest.
There was a grove of tall birches that surrounded a little boulder full of soft moss where I used to sit as a youngster. I often went to this special safe spot, away from my older brother. I was protected in the woods by their strong arms; it was just me and the trees.
They bend and lean on each other like the strong brushstrokes of a Franz Kline painting on windy days when there are whitecaps on the lake. They bend and nearly always snap back.
I was often painting and photographing birch trees… at upward angles, close-up photos of their bark, of their roots intertwined around rocks and over and under each other like the gnarled hands of an elderly person. The texture of their bark is so smooth, it sometimes leaves a fine powder on your hands. Their little half inch horizontal black lines are like a modern composition for a keyboard with infinite strings. Some of the trees curve around each other as they grow, as if in love forever.
I discovered what must be one of the largest living silver birch. It must be over 200 years old. (see last photo) I never liked seeing any of them chopped down for fire wood. No one must ever touch this old silver birch.
Paul Cahan Jan. 2015
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