Tuesday, June 11, 2013
I'm getting a pizza, driving into town like I do several times a day, when I glance to the right and see something I never did before, a cocktail of images that add up to something gorgeous, if I can get it in a camera. So I pull over.
I don't think Joyce Kilmer had a cottonwood in mind when she made her outrageous claim about poems and trees. Cottonwoods, like the ones in the picture, are quintessentially gnarly. They're oversized, an awkward scramble of branches, perpetually disfigured--all of them--by the battle they wage all year long with prairie winds. They're not beautiful, but they are an unmistakable presence. They're native, and buffalo loved them because that shaggy bark made for a great back rub. Years ago, right here, trappers found knee deep buffalo fur beneath big ones like these.
When cottonwoods this size shed their cotton, we get winter, sans temps. Endless whiffs of airy whiteness float like feathers, fill the air and the garage. And, yes, people sneeze. But in the right light, they bestow something almost manna-like. Like this.
Now the Alton pond is kind of sad really. By November it was pea green. Right now, it's chocolate after all the flooding, but I'm dissing the word chocolate when I use it that way because the pond is just plain dirty, muddy and muddied, and I can't imagine it holds anything but fat old carp.
But when the sun sets--the sun we haven't seen for a week--Walden has nothing on Alton Pond.
So what pulled me out of the car on my way to get pizza was big trunky cottonwoods, wispy cotton, a brassy sunset, and a little pond that was going nowhere. Mix 'em sweetly and what you get isn't bad. I wanted to see if I could catch the concoction, all that worthless beauty. This was the best I could do.
Not bad for ten minutes on the corner at Alton. Just another late afternoon, but I got some of it, some of it at least. And all of it got me.
If you're wondering, we didn't care much for the pizza.
Posted by J. C. Schaap at 6:58 AM