More than a year ago, one of my favorite “scenic” trees, a 60-year-old white pine that once spread its feathery branches over our driveway, was struck by lightning. Weakened by the blow, the tree’s time was up. We hired a fellow to cut it down and chainsaw its trunk into chunky lengths. I hated to see the tree go. One of the best sounds in the world is wind through pine boughs. It was beautifully shaped – a classic whirled form – and I loved including its lively outline against the night sky in my astrophotos. An interesting foreground is a key element in any good photo of the night sky. This pine had always been up to the challenge.
After cutting, the tree was transformed into a series of squat wood cylinders each about a foot and a half high. I piled these into a neat stack where they sat drying in the sun for months.Â At the end of last summer, I moved them by wheelbarrow to the backyard fire pit, where they dried out some more.
This past Friday night was perfect for a bonfire. Cool but not cold, a light breeze from the north. Under a brilliant full moon, I decided it was time to put new life into my old tree. When the blaze was full and hot, I rolled the first of several of its hefty rounds into the flames. Then I sat back and enjoyed a satisfying show of light, heat and flames. Before returning to the fundamentals of energy and ash, my white pine was giving back one more time. Once a pretty foreground object, it was now the center of my attentions.
While tossing on another length and enjoying the huge shower of sparks that took off for the heavens, it occurred to me to take one last portrait of the tree in celestial company. I propped up the camera on the ground and made a few images before settling back onto the bench to soak in more warmth.
I stayed up by that fire until after 1, not wanting to go to bed. Happily, my pine has several additional lives remaining, since there’s much wood left to burn. I counted 11 big rounds,Â easily enough for a week’s worth of nights. I don’t think I’ll mind this lingering goodbye before the tree departs for good – except in the images you see here.