Magic Maple Aesthetic Considerations    Robert Leverett
   Jan 03, 2007 11:06 PST 


In response to Ed's request, I submit the following as my rather random
musings on the aesthetic appeal of Magic Maple.

bobmonicamagicmaplea.jpg (106744 bytes)

        Magic Maple, in MTSF, is a red maple that grows in the northern
extreme of that state forest. Magic Maple tips the scales at a highly
respectable 8.1 feet in girth and 118.9 feet in height - as re-measured
this past Saturday by John Knuerr and myself. These are impressive
statistics for a red maple throughout most of its geographical range,
but especially in the Northeast and Magic Maple's dimensions help to
define the species' best expression in MTSF. The tree is worthy of our
admiration as it co-exists with a host of other stately species.
However, it isn't Magic Maple's dimensions that so endear me to this
particular tree. Other trees in Mohawk are larger and taller and many
are quite handsome. I think it is that Magic Maple perfectly projects
into in physical time and space what artists seek to render on canvas
and poets seek to express on paper as timeless expressions of nature's
beauty. To my eye, Magic Maple is the quintessential expression of
nature's creativity seen through an artistic lens. Let's take a stroll
in Mohawk and meet Magic Maple.

Magic Maple grows in a small cove above Zoar Gap in the Hoosac
sub-range of the Berkshires. The inviting sound of rushing the waters of
the Deerfield is our constant companion. As we leave River Road at Zoar
Gap and walk part way up the steep side if Clark Mountain, we enter the
domain of exceptionally tall trees. We reach a terrace that skirts the
ever steepening part of Clark Mountain head toward the northern boundary
of MTSF. After a short walk, if we are looking in just the right
direction, Magic Maple appears at a distance as wonderfully symmetrical
form. Her long lines and smooth curves carry our eyes upward along her
trunk and into her out-swept limbs. There is a pleasing flow to each of
her branches. The contours have the power to sooth us. If the light is
right, it can be almost mesmerizing. Magic Maple is located in a spot
that holds competing forms at bay. They are far enough away as not to
interfere with the space that she claims as her own - her birthright.

    In looking at Magic Maple from a sufficient distance as to preclude
easy species identification, it is as if she is taunting us. Name my
species, she exhorts. Am I an ash or am I an elm? Her form suggests
either. But as we approach more closely, her opposite branching rules
out elm, leaving us with the slight possibility of an ash, but no, the
upward thrust of her many fine twigs say red maple. At an even closer
distance, her skin announces her formally as a red maple.

   She has no broken limbs. There are no signs of decay in her trunk.
The proportion of large branches, giving way to small, and then to fine
twigging is by just the right ratios. Are we seeing arboreal perfection?
As we draw ever closer, she projects to us what must be near physical
perfection for her species. She challenges us to think of a more perfect
form. We can't.

As we walk into the space beneath her outstretched limbs, Magic Maple
exerts a magnetic pull. Come hug me she seems to be saying. Stand near
me and sense my gentle power. I am here to remind all who would demean
my species that we red maples are proud trees. We have a long heritage
of service to all creatures. You humans once considered us your friends.
You used our bodies to build your houses and your furniture. Those you
call the indigenous people drank our sweet sap. You burned our limbs in
winter to keep your dwellings warm. You greeted our red buds and crimson
flowers in the spring and you marveled at our autumn fire. Please don't
think ill of us now as you alter the landscape and introduce imbalances
that appeal to a part of our nature, a part that is not so different
from your own.

Magic Maple is beautiful and beauty is part of aesthetics. She grows in
one of the most scenic parts of the Berkshires, the Deerfield River
Gorge, and that enhances her own appeal. She reinforces the beauty of
the surrounding area and the surrounding area reinforces her beauty. One
might argue that she is almost too perfect. A blemish or two would make
her more ....more? Human-like? Equal acceptance of one's perfections and
imperfections? Perhaps, but that will occur all in time. Magic Maple
will not always appear perfect. So let us fully enjoy the present . For
now is Magic Maple's time.    

I will conclude my ramblings with the following observation. Magic
Maple exemplifies how two species (humans and trees) can cooperate to
the best interests of each. The area where Magic Maple grows is not old
growth, but part of a past improvement cut by DCR's foresters. She is
the beneficiary of more growing space. However, Magic Maple communicates
clearly that her species belongs in the woodlands of New England. She is
a true native with still much to offer.     


Robert T. Leverett
Cofounder, Eastern Native Tree Society

RE: Magic Maple Aesthetic Considerations
  Jan 03, 2007 13:02 PST 

Bob, Excellent writing! You definitely have a Magical way with words. I
almost felt as if I was standing there with you, looking up at this
Majestic Red Maple! 
Re: Magic Maple Aesthetic Considerations   Jess Riddle
  Jan 07, 2007 14:17 PST 


I find your description of the Magic Maple both engaging and elegant.
Your description brings back to me vivid images of a tree that I
recently encountered; the large hemlock that Will and I recently
measured on Hurricane Creek, and that I attempted to describe in a
post of that area, seems to have many of the same properties: the tree
is large relative to other individuals of the species in the region,
the crown is strikingly symmetrical, and the surrounding forest is
structured just right to allow striking views of the tree. However,
typically none of those attributes by themselves identify a tree as
exceptional. Symmetrical trees in yards or canopy gaps usually fail
to capture our attention, and trees that are large but not large
enough to challenge any records often only receive passing notice. To
me, it was the trees combination of size and symmetry, including bark
symmetry, with ample viewing opportunity that elicited ideas of

Back to Jess   Robert Leverett
  Jan 08, 2007 06:16 PST 


   I think another aspect of the attraction of Magic Maple for me is
related to its species' underdog status among many resource
professionals, who see it as undesirable. Although red maple is Rhode
Island's state tree and many artists and poets love it, it has gotten a
bad name in recent years because of its aggressiveness in repopulating
areas that have been timbered, especially those that have been high
graded of their commercially valuable species.