Spring’s First Leaves | Mark Lindsay

Regular readers of this blog know that I have a certain fascination with a tree in the town park. The tree is an easy object of affection. It is an impressive sculptural expression of nature, set on a flat plain and surrounded by green grass. It has cinematic appeal—seems larger than life.

A shorter distance away, in my front yard is a small group of weeping birches. The birches are closer to home, both physically and metaphorically. I see them throughout every day and in every season. I behold them in all modes of weather, in all angles of light. They are a more difficult subject for a photographer than is the giant eucalyptus in the park. The trees' essence is illusive, not easily captured in a photograph's two-dimensional plane. But, in spring the allure of the birches is irresistible. They tease me with their beauty and so photograph them and write about them, I must.

The weeping birches were planted some eighty years ago by a German immigrant who fled Nazi persecution and came to our hamlet here in Marin County, California. She brought seeds or seedlings of the trees with her and planted them in her yard (next door) and ours. She was a kind, gentle woman who we came to love upon our own arrival to the neighborhood in 1984. She was, by then, past 80 in years and a source of great wisdom and inspiration to us. She is now gone, but her trees remain, as vibrant as our memories of her.

Our neighbor was as if a gentle breeze and whenever the lace-like branches of the birches flow with the wind, I think of her. In spring, the branches burst forth tiny explosions of green that, when backlit, are like a stained-glass panel by Louis Comfort Tiffany. Their constant movement makes them difficult to photograph. They are best enjoyed in-person and for hours at a time.

I have often looked at the trees and affirmed my need to express my love for them. Then the leaves dance and sway and my artistic heart sinks a bit, knowing that the birches' charm, is, ultimately, ineffable. Hope springs eternal and spring, for me, arrives when the birches' buds turn to leaves. That happened four days ago and now I am trying, once again, to express my adoration of the birches. Today's photo is my latest attempt.