Cottonwoods Musings Don Bertolette
July 4, 2009


For several weeks now, cottonwoods have been running through my mind's back roads...seeing those that Colorado has offered up to Bob and Monica reminded me of portions of an essay on November (A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold, Paragraph 16) where my favorite conservationist was listing some of his favorite trees.
He opined that "To me the ancient cottonwood is the greatest of trees because in his youth he shaded the buffalo and wore a halo of pigeons, and I like a young cottonwood because he may someday become ancient.  But the farmer's wife (and hence the farmer) despises all cottonwoods because in June the female tree clogs the screens with cotton.  The modern dogma is comfort at any cost."

While it is July, and my posting just misses the month the farmer's wife came to dislike, we here in Alaska are in the middle of our cottonwoods summer fling.  Her flowers are resplendent and pendulous in their fullness, dispersing the lightest of downy seed.  I can think of no better way to characterize wind currents than with individual cottonseeds, as they take the longest time to touch down to mother earth.  They waft with each subtle wind current, drifting and dodging, travelling much of the time far away from the tree that bore it.  

When they do land, they of course will not stay put, just as subject to ground level breezes as those treeborne. It is only against edges of lawns and flowerbeds that they now accumulate, and after the first windy day, they accumulate as if they were an unseasonable skiff of snow, still captured in 'drifts' this Fourth of July.
And of course, in our screens...


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