The snow in the Orphaned Woods is mostly melted now. Although it lingers in long swaths and small patches of shadowed places.
The sun was bright and warm and the wind hadn’t kicked up yet, so I sat on the knee the old Maple tree offered. The height of a low stool, the top of this massive root is almost flat. I leaned back easily, my body taking up little space on the wide trunk.
A perfect seat in the woods.
I looked to see what the maple saw and immediately there was a flash to my left.
I knew it was a woodpecker, not because I could actually distinguish the shape or markings of the bird, it was too small and moving too fast, but by the way it flew. A quick straight line interrupted by a jerky movement, that seemed to throw it off balance for a moment, then back to its swift forward streak. A dash, dot, dash…
After it was gone from my sight, I turned my head, and it was a Black Cherry tree that greeted me next.
I’ve been aware of the Black Cherry trees for some time. It is the tree in the Orphaned Woods with the easiest bark to identify next to the Shagbark Hickory.
Rough oblong hunks of dark gray and black, scaly bark lift from the trunk. The Black Cherry trees in The Orphaned Woods, both big and small, shoot straight up to the sky rarely forking before they reach the canopy. They’re not thick like the old maple, the biggest maybe a foot in diameter.
And there are many small dead ones still standing, their bark falling off in clumps.
There’s a small circle of two older and one younger Black Cherry trees on entering the Orphaned Woods
I like to stand in the middle of them, and reach my hands out touch two at a time. I think of the roots connected to each other under my feet exchanging nutrients as Peter Wohlleben writes about in his book, The Hidden Life of Trees. They “are perfectly capable of distinguishing their roots from the roots of other species…” he writes.
Wohlleben writes that trees are social beings and that helping each other, no matter the species, makes for a healthier forest which is better for all the trees growing there. I like to imagine that I am part of their social circle and wonder if they can sense my energy as I lay my hands on their trunks.
Black Cherry trees also known as Wild Cherry trees, aren’t the same Cherry trees that produce the fruit we buy in the grocery store. Their cherries are much small about 3/8″ and grow in clumps. They can be used to make jelly or wine.
The Black Cherry trees that I know are all so tall, I’m not even sure I’d be able to see the fruit. And I imagine they’d get eaten up quickly. In the spring and late summer, I’ll bring my binoculars with me when I look for the drooping white flowers and fruit.
Black Cherry trees are native to North America. And it’s from them that we get the cherry kitchen cabinets that were so popular some years ago. According to my Audubon Field Guide, the wood was so valued it was one of the first trees brought to England, from the “New World… as early as 1625.”
It was Zinnia who got me up from the knee of the Maple when she interrupted my meditation by bringing me a deteriorating deer skull.
“Thank you,” I said to her taking the skull from her mouth. I placed it on the fallen limb of the Maple, as Zinnia sniffed the air trying to figure out where it had gone.
Shortly after that, I walked through a low hanging curtain of grapevines into the forest that extends beyond the Orphaned Woods. I was focused on finding more Black Cherry trees, while Zinnia and Fate scouted out more deer bones exposed by the melted snow.