canoeing, death, Faithful Living, Hope, Lessons from the Wilderness, Trees, Wilderness Paddling, Winter


The graceful tamarack is my favorite tree. Now, in the iron fist of winter, it soldiers on, bared of its fronds like a naked pine. Also called a larch, the tamarack is a unique tree in that it is considered both coniferous (evergreen, conical shape) and deciduous (loses its leaves/needles). The indigenous Algonquian and Abenaki peoples used it to make snowshoes because of its pliant nature.

Why do I love it so? Mostly I think it is because it is shaped by grace, and colored a rich, soft emerald that turns a royal gold in the autumn, and because the birds love the tamarack’s cover and branching. Here at Trout Creek our resident wrens sing lustily from the largest tamarack next to the garden. Tamaracks grow in swampy areas, greedily drinking up the excess water like a camel in the desert. And, heaven knows, in this family, we love the mired bogs and fens that subdue sound and teem with life. The tamarack tenderly graces the rivers we paddle, swaddled into the forest edge with cedar, birch, and pine.

What I love most, though, is that this tree, so dead-like now, will soon sprout soft, feathery green pinions as the wrens return to nest in its bosom. It reminds me of my dad and brother-in-law who lost their hair to chemotherapy- bald and bare in the cold. But, what seems utterly dead and ready for the woodpile is actually a living thing at rest, hibernating like the bear. What seems lifeless is full of life, of living beauty and grace, where birds and animals shelter with confidence and hope. I love, too, that the tamarack is pliant, like a life bent to the Presence and will of God.

Here, in the strong grip of winter, the tamarack’s barren look mirrors my own mood; the cold, dark days strip and whip me mentally and physically, and my vitality dips, and I feel exactly the same way stumbling through this drowsy hibernation. And yet, I remain secure in the knowledge that I am protected, warmed, and given a great hope in the life that is in me and is also to come. Thank you God for the tamarack trees, and the way they remind us of your grace and love.

These short essays are my way of noodling about life in the wilderness, on foot, in a canoe, on a bike.  If you want to read more, sign up to follow the blog and you will receive an email each time a new essay is posted!  Your comments help

~J.A.P. Walton

If you are passionate about quiet adventuring: paddling, camping, hiking, cycling etc. try this link to find out about the Quiet Water Society!  Quiet Water Society

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