Wednesday, 10 February 2021

WW: Mystery tree

(Found this all alone in the middle of the swamp that has figured in many recent posts. The white trunk that so gleams 'midst the dead winter foliage and sulking North Pacific sky is none other than Betula papyrifera, the famous paper birch from which Eastern First Nations build their canoes.

Emblematic of the Eastern Woodlands and not uncommon in the Prairies and Rocky Mountains, canoe birch is perishing rare on the Pacific Slope. Hence Whatcom County's Birch Bay, whose endemic birches were noteworthy to early settlers.

But south of the Fraser Valley,
B. papyrifera drips and drabs into scarcity, before disappearing entirely around Everett.

Which is 100 miles from here.

Nor is this the site of any disappeared habitation, which lets out persistent landscaping. So I'm flummoxed. I don't believe there are any other paper birches within five miles in any direction; probably a great deal further.

But I'll tell you this: when I saw it there - after I recovered from my disbelief - I almost cried.
B. papyrifera covers the Laurentian Shield, and was the dominant species in the Québec hills that I lived in and loved, and where my Zen practice began. There I got to know it intimately, hiking under and through it, burning it in my woodstove through the winter, and meditating on all of its phases and stages.

This one may stand awkward and alone in this alien forest, but happening on it brought a kind of joy that is hard to explain.)

Appearing also on My Corner of the World.


  1. That does look swampy. The Hebrew inscription was because the person buried there was Jewish

  2. It does have a mysterious vibe to it! Neat capture!

  3. It definitely stands out. What a fabulous tribute to tenacity.

    I'm so glad to see you at 'My Corner of the World' this week!