As early as the 1500s, “you can’t see the forest for the trees” was in wide enough use that it was published in collections of proverbs and slang. As anyone who has been in a forest knows, it can be easy to fall into the trap of just looking at the individual trees, rather than considering the forest as a whole.

According to the “saying,” it’s really easy to lose the forest while you are looking at a tree.

Is that true? When you look at a tree, do you forget you’re in a forest? Is it that easy to forget the larger picture because you can only see part of it? Do we forget we are in a city because we’re looking at a building? Do we forget we are reading a book because we are looking at one page? At the risk of arguing with a “known fact,” I don’t need to see the whole city to know I’m in one.

Meanwhile, I really do live in a forest. Not an allegorical or metaphorical forest. We have a whole lot of trees covering a substantial amount of terrain. Our house is right on the edge of it. The forest is primarily red oak trees, with some other hardwood and a bare hint of pine. We used to have a walnut tree, but it went down in a hurricane years back.

If you live in a woods, it’s true that you can’t see the whole forest, but it doesn’t mean you don’t know it’s there.

Unless you looking down from a helicopter, you will never see the whole forest, yet I’m sure all of us can deduce, infer, and assume the larger picture. Whether or not you can see it in its entirety changes nothing. You see trees, but your brain believes “forest.” Not seeing the whole picture does not mean you don’t know there is one

Photo: Garry Armstrong

How many trees I can see from my house depends on where I am. From the back deck, I see forest. Fewer trees from the front or side of the house. But what’s the difference between the forest and the trees? Isn’t a forest just a bunch of trees? How many trees do you need before it’s a forest (rather than a bunch of trees)? Is there a definition?

Despite this, I bet you can tell the different between a group of trees and a forest every time, without assistance.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Parts of things embody the spirit of the whole. This is how we understand our world and ourselves. No matter what piece you look at, you retain awareness of its connection to something larger. We are individuals, but part of a family, a company, clan, tribe. Humanity as a whole. Without this fundamental grasp of reality, we could not live in the world.

So how do you know whether you’re looking at a single tree, or standing at the edge of a forest? Look around. If you see a lot more trees, put your money on “forest.” If you see a parking lot and a Walmart sign? Think “mall.” Of course, the Walmart could be at the edge of the forest. but I think you’ll work it out.


It was warm enough today to wear tee shirts. I took a rake and cleared out the dead leaves from the garden. Garry dumped them into a crate and tossed them in the woods. One of the great parts of living in the woods is you don’t have to worry about where to put the dead leaves and lawn rubble. The wood doesn’t care. It’s got plenty of its own rubble and your addition is a drop in a very big bucket.

We have a few crocus. We had a few more, but I missed them. We’ve got daffodils on the way up, but not in bloom. Several tulips on the way. A lot of popping day lilies. Fat buds on trees branches, but no leaves. I think we’ll see leaves on the forsythia by the end of the week, if the weather stays warm. And we will very suddenly have a great mass of Solomon’s Seal in about three weeks, give or take.

Next week, my son has promised to (FINALLY) pull out the two dead rose bushes. He doesn’t want to because these are brutal bushes. Barbed wire looks like pussy willows in comparison.

When we bought the miniature roses, they mentioned we’d have many roses. We do. Pink and dark red by the bunch.

They didn’t mention those little bushes are killers. Get anywhere near them and they attack. The branches latch onto you and your clothing with a deathlike grip. Plant these around your house and you can be sure no one is coming through your hedges. I think these bushes were used for that exact purpose. That’s also why these are not the most popular rose bushes on the market. They grow huge and produce a lot of roses. They also up and die for no reason. We had four of them. Now we have two, but these are huge. I need to clip them before they completely take over what we laughingly call a garden.

I never thought I’d say this, but we could really use a gardener, at least to help organize the space. It’s beautiful in May when everything is blooming.  It’s also a great big mess!


Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Spring – Wood

It’s hard to get my head around “spring woods” sitting here in the freezing rain. In Connecticut. With Tom and Ellin. Yes, folks, we are hanging with friends in Connecticut.

Unfortunately, New England is what it is. Cold. Wet. Not going to be a picture day. So, we shall adjourn to my tens of thousands of pictures of woods. Spring woods, if possible.

Have a great day!

The Canal – May 2016

Kingfisher by the canal



It’s the time of year when people spend a lot of time and energy looking at trees. Photographing trees. Talking about trees.


It’s autumn in New England and trees are big news. People come from long distances to look at the foliage. A good year for the trees is also a good year for tourism and all the associated businesses. Today the rain stopped and the leaves are changing. We don’t get a lot of color right here because most of our trees are oaks and they don’t have the really bright colors.


You want serious color? Look to the alders, birch, and maples. Especially the sugar maples. They give you the bright reds and oranges that screams “autumn!!”


We were out taking pictures yesterday, so these photos are a preview. Much more will come (I hope) during the next week or so. Once the change begins, it happens fast. Between yesterday and today, there’s big difference.



Branching Out, by Rich Paschall

William was staring up at the giant tree when Mr. Dubois softly approached.  “It really is a magnificent tree,” he told William in a consoling tone of voice.  William would have none of that.  He glared back at the neighbor before speaking.

“It is a horrible tree, sir.  It has been for years,” William said frankly.  “And now it has killed my mother and it has to go.”

Exactly one week earlier William’s elderly mother was working in the garden when a branch from the large tree fell on top of her.  Apparently no one saw the accident and she was lying there for a long time before help was called.  It was too late, however, as the old branch was too big and heavy.  It pinned her to the spot and she was unable to cry out.


“Oh no, William, this old tree did not kill anyone.  It is quiet and harmless.  It was just an accident.  That’s all it was. Perhaps some wind knocked a dying branch off the tree.”

“My mother hated that tree and she should have gotten rid of it years ago,” he retorted.

“You must be mistaken.  I think she loved the tree.  Just look at its stately magnificence.  Why, there isn’t a finer shade tree in the neighborhood!  In the summer, it protects your whole house.  In the fall its colors are a joy.  It must be twice as tall as the house.  I believe it has been there more than 100 years.  It was probably planted when your mother’s nice home was first built.”

“Mr. Dubois,” William began, “that is exactly the problem.  In the spring it drops a million seeds. Every fall, it drops tons of leaves.  The roots are in everything. The sidewalk is cracked as is the basement floor.  We must clear roots from the drain pipes every year.  My mother was tired of this thing and planned to take it down.”

Mr. Dubois gasped.  He just could not imagine anyone wanting to take down such a grand tree.  He begged William to consider the benefits of the tree.

“There are no benefits, Mr. Dubois.  The damn thing must go. Period. When I collect my mother’s insurance money, that’s exactly I’m going to do.  It would be a tribute to her if took her money and removed this threat to my home and my neighbors’ homes.”


William knew a tree that size would cost a fortune to remove.  It was twice as tall as the house.  Branches went through all the cables that ran to the house from the alley.  He could never have afforded the thousands of dollars it would cost to remove a giant tree,  but with the windfall from the life insurance money his mother had left him, he could do it.

A month later, Mr. Dubois was passing the estate when he spotted William by the tree behind the house. He was smiling.  He walked up to him and said, “I hope now that some time has passed, William,  you see what a lovely tree it is.”

“On the contrary, sir, I see what a menace it is. And now, I can afford to get rid of it. I am calling for quotes from trees services. I think rose bushes would look terrific here, don’t you?”

“William, you offend this magnificent living thing.”

“A tree can’t be offended. But I can be … and I am.  Soon we’ll have a clear view of the sky.”

Mr. Dubois looked at the tree, shook his head, and walked away.

William remained under the tree and considered how he might make use of the space he’d regain when the tree was gone. Suddenly, there was a loud snapping. A huge branch fell from the tree onto William.  He was knocked to the ground gasping for breath.  Although it was late summer, some leaves rained down too and covered him.

A broken limb

A broken limb

About an hour later paramedics arrived, took the branch off William and brushed the leaves from the poor soul.  They did their best to revive William, but after working on him a while, they shook their heads. Then, they put him into the ambulance and drove away.

Mr. Dubois had been watching from across the street.  He shook his head, apparently amazed such a thing could happen twice.

Slowly William’s neighbor walked across the quiet city street.  The avenue was lined with old homes that had been erected more than 100 years earlier, when the neighborhood was first settled by immigrants from Sweden and Norway.  A handful of homes still had the giant trees that were planted when their wood frame homes were built.  William’s mother had perhaps the most stately tree of all.

The best tree of all

The best tree of all

Mr. Dubois walked up to William’s tree and inspected all the branches for any more old and dying limbs.  Everything was healthy and blooming.  Finally Mr. Dubois spoke to the tree.

“I warned them,” he explained.  “I warned them both, but they would not listen.  So I did as you indicated both times.  After the loud noise I waited an hour before calling paramedics.  Perhaps the boy will not return either.  It would be a shame to have to drop another branch.”

Mr. Dubois took one more look at his beloved tree. And went home.


Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Trees

Bi-tonal moon setting at sunrise

Bi-tonal sunrise

The colorful autumn leave as well as delicate shades of green leaves will lose something when translated to black and white. However, the shape and form of trees in black and white is amplified, especially in silhouette against a bright sky.

Date palms with mountains


72-BW-Ben's Place- 01062015_002



amherst stone church shadows BW

Cee's Black & White Photo Challenge Badge


This summer has been a nightmare. A waking nightmare. For anyone whose nightmare images are hairy crawling things coming to get you, we had’em. A LOT of them. Everywhere. Falling from the trees and the eaves. Writhing underfoot.

When one day, we woke up to find our world covered — and I mean really covered — in gypsy moth caterpillars, it was the beginning of nightmare time for me and a lot of other people. Not only do they defoliate all the hardwood trees — with oak being a particular favorite — but they get into everything. They slither around your house, piggyback on your pets, crawl down your collar. They are also ever so slightly poisonous.

A quick contact with one can leave you with raised welts that hurt and itch for weeks.


Now, the caterpillars are done with us for the year. The leaves are coming back and finally, even the naked tall oaks are looking more like trees and less like skeletons.


There are still a lot of moths out there laying eggs. I don’t know whether or not next year will be a rerun. If yes, it will be a very bad year for the trees.

The hot weather we’re currently having (it’s going up to almost 100 today) will help destroy some of the egg. A decent amount of rain would help even more.


Nightmare? My nightmare is caterpillars. Everywhere … and when the world is quiet, you can hear them eating the trees. That’s my nightmare … and it was real.

DAILY PROMPT | Nightmare