A blog focused on nature, science, environmental topics, and happenings at the Pocono Environmental Education Center (PEEC).

A Naif in the Forest by Darrell Berger

Wing Tips to Hiking Boots: Musings of a New, Full-Time Poconos Resident

Shortly after we arrived here, we planted a redbud tree where the backyard becomes the forest. It is small even by redbud standards, maybe ten feet tall and one might unkindly call it scraggly. Some sources don’t even call redbud trees, but rather large shrubs. It has never thrived, but persisted. Today is part of that two or three weeks when its colors brighten a spring that is cold and late. A more precise name for it would be “mauve bud tree.” 

Its range falls short of us, barely encroaching upon Pennsylvania, but they are plentiful here, if not common, both wild and planted. They are in high demand for green houses across the state. Its flowers can be eaten and are often used as seasoning for wild game. It is sometimes called a spicewood tree. 

Today the vivid buds were stunning against the green of the larger trees and the bright blue sky above. I felt fortunate to see it. With the tree far from a road that itself is itself far from busy, my wife and I would likely be the only humans to see it. That made me seem important, as though I had a special responsibility to appreciate this beauty, lest it bloom unseen and unappreciated. 

Its color is not seen by squirrels, rabbits, foxes or deer, none of which can discern green from red, let alone mauve. Foxes are as colorblind as dogs. Birds can see our spectrum as well as ultraviolet, a far more spectacular view than ours, unlikely to focus anywhere for long. From all the creatures in the forest, only humans see the redbud as it appears in the photo. 

Does the redbud need my eyes, or care that it is seen? Or are the gray buds the fox sees sufficient? Or does implying or hoping for sentience in the forest a bridge too far beyond reason, if not poetry? Or is this all just philosophical meandering around the plain fact that I feel blessed to see this tree, at this time, in this place.

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