Sunday, February 16, 2014

Quaking Aspens

My childhood is filled with memories of camping trips around Utah: Moon Lake in the Uintas, Fish Lake in central Utah, Snow Canyon outside of St. George. One thing that united almost every camping trip was the presence of quaking aspens. Quakies are the ubiquitous tree in Utah. Seen as a scourge in the city because you never, NEVER, can get rid of them, they are nevertheless a beautiful tree.

In the summer, their brilliant green leaves shimmer and shake and tremble with the slightest breeze. In the fall, they have a blazing yellow circle of a leaf and the bare white and black bark stand out starkly against the snow in winter.

Despite their weed-like reputation, I have a soft spot for them, perhaps because of my childhood spent amongst them. But even now as I see my children run and play in the aspens during one of our camping trips, I am in awe of their beauty and tenacity.

One reason we see so many Quakies in Utah is their unique way of propagating. Quaking Aspens in a given colony are considered the same organism. They don’t produce seeds very often so they send up shoots through one massive root system.

One colony, named Pando, is considered the heaviest and oldest living organism in the world. It is six million kilograms and about 80,000 years old… and is located right in the middle of the state of Utah. It is my beloved aspen colony that has seen me grow up and now watches my kids play.

It is awe-inspiring to be around such an old and large organism. And I want to make something inspired by Pando. Not something massive and monumental, but small and intimate like my relationship with the quaking aspens of my youth.

Note: all these pictures were taken during our camping trips around Utah. See, they are everywhere!

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