Thursday, February 17, 2011

Winter Insects, Part IV

The wind whispered through the white pine's boughs as I snowshoed down the trail.
   Sometimes the wind can cause the pines to sound like they are screaming for relief from an approaching storm or sighing for spring.  This day the sound was pleasant enough.  What caught my attention was the creaking right close to me.  When I looked in the direction of the sound I noticed it was caused by a swaying white pine valiantly holding up a fallen hero.  A dead American chestnut tree had fallen, but was still contributing to society by making my day more interesting and by sheltering overwintering insects.

   The American chestnut weathers with this characteristic look.  What comes to mind when I see a chestnut tree is the tragedy that decimated the chestnuts.  I also think of the industries once surrounding the chestnut (ever hear of a chestnut grove?).  Who can help but think of the poem, The Village Blacksmith, by Longfellow?  But mostly when I see a dead chestnut tree, I think of the beautiful wood hidden under that coarse and cracked surface.

 Just splitting open that rugged pole reveals the beautiful wood grain and the typical "wormy chestnut" look. Milling the lumber and putting a finish on really brings out that beauty.  Here is some paneling I had made for someone.

 I think wormy chestnut is one of the prettiest woods.

 Wormy chestnut paneling looks real good on a wall.

   Since seeing a weathered chestnut pole makes me think of the formerly abundant tree and its many uses, I about forget that I am out in the woods on snowshoes looking for insects that are toughing out the winter.
 Here I split open a section of the pole revealing some ants spending the winter in the galleries they excavated for a nest.
The ants are juiced up with antifreeze and are in a state of torpidity. The ants' torpor lasted for several days after I had brought some in the house just to see if they can really wake up.

 The ants have a fascinating way to spend the long winter.  Hidden in a chestnut wood gallery, dead to the swaying and creaking, and the cold.
  I leaned the chestnut back against the pine so that they can both do their thing for many more years and I snowshoed on down the trail.

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