Okay, so bear with me here. This is a piece from my favorite sleeping spot in the West Elks, about half way up Hinkle Hill, just outside of the wilderness boundary. This old pair stands out from the rest of the grove, looking down the Ohio Creek valley towards Gunnison. Over the years i've painted them, leaned on them, slept under them, tried to climb them, been hit by their broken branches in hail storms, hit them back a few times, tried to catch their falling leaves on my tongue, hitched my dog to them, peed next to them, conversed with them (yes, two-way), and shared their view of the most beautiful valley in the world. That's all normal, right? Anyway, last time I was in Gunnison I snowshoed up to see them, just like I try to visit any other old friends when I'm in town. And on that hike I came to one perfectly logical, but nonetheless world-shattering, realization: trees do not live forever. The north trunk (the left one in this painting) has snapped off at the base, probably during one of those hail storms that it used to use as an excuse to throw parts of itself at me. The other trunk is still there, but seems ready to give up and lay down in a slumber next to it's partner. Now, apparently I am wired in such a way that it takes dying forests for me to contemplate mortality and death and all that other fun stuff, because as I laid in the snow (in half my normal amount of shade) my head was imploding on itself with all the typical questions that accompany death and dying. I had walked past and over literally hundreds of fallen trees on the hike up, but this new lack of symmetry pushed me past the proverbial tipping point as I realized that my old friends were gone. On the other hand, behind me stretched the great Kebler aspen grove, one of the largest organisms on the planet, and a self contained microcosm of the life/death dichotomy that puzzles us all. And it is full of trails that lead to pairs of aspen trees with spectacular views. I figure i'll spend a great deal of time trying to meet those new citizens of the forest, but I still miss these two. So there you have it...my longest post ever, and it's a eulogy. For trees. Sorry.
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