Yesterday's Light

Images in Space and Time

Life on the Edge

One of my photographic objectives on this trip was to try and capture as many trees as possible.  Mostly southwestern trees.  Here in the northeast, most trees have little or no “personality”, in my opinion – they all look much like their neighbors.  And few of them (unless they’re diseased or dying) look stressed.  But why should they be?  Life is good here, even in the wintertime.  The soil is generally good, temperatures are moderate, and there’s plenty of water.  If you’re a tree, it’s like living at the beach.

Not so in the southwest.  Things are just a little tougher there.  It may rain or it may not.  For months at a time.  The soil – if you can call it that – is rocky and sandy.  If you were a farmer, you’d move on.  If you raised livestock, you’d find some place more hospitable.  Life in general is not easily supported in this terrain.  For trees or animals or people.  All this wide open space exists for a reason.  It is, after all, a very large desert.  Pretty, but harsh.

But trees have no choice.  They survive (or don’t) wherever the seed happens to drop.  Sometimes it’s in places that seem impossible, like the steep slope of a canyon wall or high on a cliff where temperature ranges and water availability are serious problems.  You and I would quit.  Throw in the towel.  Head for the nearest valley with a river flowing through it.  Or the beach.  Somewhere where life is easier.

So our woody friends that survive here – and some do for hundreds or even thousands of years – deserve a little recognition, I think.  They may look ragged and scruffy and sometimes even dead, but they hang on to life like nothing I’ve ever seen.  Like the Energizer Bunny, they just keep going and going…………


7 Responses to “Life on the Edge”

    • Paul Maxim

      Thanks, CLC. “Dare” is the appropriate word, I think. It’s like Mother Nature is saying, “Go ahead, try and live in this miserable spot”.

  1. oneowner

    Inasmuch as a tree can actually have “personality” – this one has it in spades. And the monotone finishing is really nice on this. I wonder if these areas in the Southwest are not subject to the really high winds that can pull whole trees out of the ground. I’ve seen it happen here and quite a lot in Minnesota. When I was in the Rockies some time ago, I was amazed that trees seem to grow out of sheer rock with only a little soil visible.

    • Paul Maxim

      Thanks, Ken. Oh, they do get high winds here. It’s like being out on the lake – there’s nothing there to stop it. How these trees manage to hang on is a little mysterious, although their rooting systems are, shall we say, unique. You can see them spreading out in all directions, looking for both water and a stable foothold.

      In some areas (like Zion) trees and vegetation can be found in places known as “hanging gardens”. As you point out, it looks like this stuff is growing out of sheer rock on steep cliffs. But the rock is rather porous sandstone that water easily filters through. And somehow they manage to grab hold. I’m always awestruck when I see it.

  2. jstrong52

    My personal favorite are Bristlecon Pines – some are thousands of years old. They live near the treeline in the Rockies and as such have a windblown look like no others. I’ve got one on the main page of my website and as an ongoing project. Methuselah, in California, is supposed to be the oldest known plant. These guys know survival!

    Very nice image Paul, and monochrome fits it perfectly.

    • Paul Maxim

      Yes, I love the Bristlecones. I’ve never seen one in the Rockies, but you can find a few in Bryce NP up at about 9,000 – 10,000 feet. They’re all twisted and for the most part look “dead”. But then you find a little green growth somewhere. Amazing lifeforms.


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