Big Trees & Many Birds

In the Southeast corner of Missouri, along the Mississippi River, the land lies low and fertile. At times called “Swampeast” a swatch of forest rises over the flat fields of corn and soybeans.

Preserved as a state park, the area is known for large trees — champion sized oak and large cypress — and birdwatching. More than 150 bird species have been observed in this lowland.

So when planning a trip to Big Oak Tree State Park, check two things — flood conditions and bird guide.

Keep your feet mud free by confining your hike — and bench time — to the elevated metal boardwalk. Behind this inviting bench stands a large, screened structure for an excellent view of birds at the edge of the forest.

MORNING TRYST, a sweet romance, features a photographer who would have visited this park in each season. Kindle:


The Greening

During 2021 I tried keeping an informal record of the most prominent tree visible from my front door.

The assignment, carried out with a passing grade, was to photograph the tree from approximately the same position on the first day of each month. (Due to the age of my brain — some photos were taken on the second, or third, or…you get the idea.)

May happened to be a month when I was prompt.

Spring was making an appearance in St. Louis during May. From an April photo of mostly bare twigs, we’re progressed to light green, small, and delicate leaves. At the moment, it does not provide much shade for the car parked nearby. But that’s okay — even the afternoon sun is not strong enough to be a bother. However, the leaves at this stage give hope that the alternating cool and warm days of spring will yield to full summer by the time schools dismiss and swimming pools open.

Did the photographer stand in the middle of the street to take this?

Yes, she did. However, she did follow the wise advice to check traffic first and was ready to dash to the side if necessary.


Calling the Weary

Dear Reader,

Rest here, exhausted hiker. Or child who has explored the playground. Or while waiting to meet your companion.

My branches have sheltered all. Spiders and insects, squirrels and birds, deer and human.

I’m taking my own rest now in this December photo. Two or three more cycles of the moon will occur before the nutrients I draw from deep in the earth will reach the now dormant leaf buds. Then — well — I’m one of the heralds of spring. How large are my new leaves? Dare farmers and gardeners plant tender crops? Which songbirds flit on my branches chirping, finding mates, and setting up housekeeping?

Summer can be intense. I like a cooling rain–good for my roots. Summer is when many seek my shade — either on the ground or among my branches.

But all things are subject to the cycle of seasons. My leaves lose function and turn from green to brown — perhaps a hint of dull yellow or deep red if the rain and temperature have been kind. And then, well, unlike humans. I shed my leafy clothing before I go to sleep. Behold my branches — stand back and admire my reach — plan your climbing route. (Remember you need to come down.)

I’ll be here — before and after your active, or restful, day at the park.


The Tree


Age Unknown

Once upon a time, a tree sprouted in St. Louis County. The plant grew, and grew. Through the years it hosted birds and squirrels. Shade provided relief from summer heat to rabbits, chipmunks, and other creatures. Through the years it stretched upward. Spread branches in an enlarging circle.

And then…

Branches turned dry and brittle. Needles changed from green to brown. Less and less wind became necessary for an impromptu prune.

Experts arrived. Hydraulic arms lifted a man up high. A chainsaw whirred.

After the sawdust settled and the wooden corpse was hauled away, this remains. How many years did the pine tree live? No rings. The ruler in the photo is twelve inches — so my guess is a multiple of the twenty years I lived across a narrow walkway.

If this were an animated movie — Ms. Squirrel could gather the neighbors and regal them with a “stump” speech.


Air Dance

Change in season. Change of temperature. Here comes the wind — autumn this time. Signaling the end of the growing season.

Yes, it’s time to tidy up, repair, and stock up on some staples.

Have you pulled out or trimmed the annual plants? Stored the patio furniture? Don’t forget the hose!

Leaves taking the “scenic route” from treetop to ground. Can you hear them?

“Let’s dance and get a glimpse of the neighbors before we settle in and face the rake.”


Dreams in the Field

When I grow up — I want to be a Christmas Tree.

Can you picture me — tall, trunk straight, branches full — I’ll hold your precious, antique ornaments of glass, wood, paper, or fabric. My green fingers have room for new ones too — gifts, crafts assembled by children, strings of beads, popcorn, or cranberries.

Do I look fine? Am I ready?

The workers have done a fine job shearing me into shape each year.

Want to make me a good house guest in December? Keep my water dish filled — some days I’ll drink more than others — the better to keep my needles firm on the twigs.

When the gifts have been exchanged and the wrapping paper discarded — don’t forget about me. Many towns and cities have special collection sites and will turn me into mulch for spring gardens. (Or check with the local zoo — elephants think I’m a special snack.)

Thinking Christmas trees? Check out Starr Tree Farm — a sweet romance with a touch of suspense. You never know what will have on a Christmas tree farm in January.

Kindle readers:

Nook readers:


Growing for the Future

Row upon row upon row the evergreens decorate the gentle hills.

What does the future hold?

Northern Christmas Trees – field of Fraizer Fir

The kind gentleman who escorted three women (old enough to be his mother) around the Christmas tree farm explained they are considered a ten-year crop. If holding to that schedule — these young trees, photographed in 2011, have already spent a season in living rooms throughout the United States. Today this same field is likely growing the next crop. Patience. Plan ahead. They sound like keys to a successful Christmas tree farmer.

Authors also need to plan ahead. Books are not an instant crop from pen (or computer) to book-in-hand. Can I build on the past? To what extent? Is it time to explore a new location? A new time frame? Where are the turning points in life?

Looking for a story set on a Christmas tree farm or the small village nearby? Check out: Starr Tree Farm

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Resolution or Experiment

Did you make a New Year’s Resolution? Have you broken it?

It’s difficult to develop a new habit. And for some reason, establishing a new positive habit feels harder than repeatedly performing a not-good-for-me task.

Regular readers of this blog are aware that the majority of the photos posted are my own. In that spirit — I plan to document a tree on the first day of each month. The tree happens to be an ash. I expect that it will need to be taken down in another five years or so — the ash borer is in the area. Plus it’s been shedding limbs in windstorms to a greater degree than other trees in the neighborhood. However, the location makes it convenient — a dozen steps from my front door I get a good view.

It was a gloomy morning and every twig was frosted when I captured this during a freezing drizzle. (Not the sort of weather to linger.) Welcome to 2021! The year of the ash tree???


Feeling Hollow

Do you ever feel a little hollow?

No, not hungry for food. But like something’s missing. Perhaps a loved one has moved away or died. A careless person gave an emotional wound.

Humans can work to repair and rebuild. They can establish new ties or strengthen ones which were weak. Humans extend this sort of care sometimes to the animal world — especially when caring for physical hurts by the appropriate medical care.

The next time you feel hollow — think of a tree. They put on a brave trunk and bark. Support as many leaves as possible. Cling to life — it’s the way of the living world. But…

give thanks the cure for human grief, or parasites, is not this drastic.

While this may have been the sensible action for a tree in a municipal park, don’t use the same on your fellow human.


Getting Close

Several years ago, as part of my research and promotion forĀ Hiding Places, [a sweet romance featuring an apple orchard], I took advantage of having an apple tree nearby and photographed it often.

It was interesting to view the bare twig (have I got the right tree) to blossom, leaf, forming fruit, and then…

Lunch box treat — I wonder if the employees of the adjoining auto body shop helped themselves? I think I would have. What about you?