2021 – 2022, November 5 – November 11

Shenandoah National Park

The road is a snake’s spine on top of the world. Baby Grey Whale dips in and out of fall foliage with the altitude of the mountains. Peaks of yellow and orange glory, then trees nearly barren. Stands of golden oaks shocked by rare brilliant reds. Then you catch a stand of green. At the peaks of the mountains the trees grew low and gnarled. In the valleys tall, straight and proud, canopying over the road in golden dappled glow.

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Woods Ferry, South Carolina

A park named for the Antebellum plantation founder who also kept a ferry on the property. By our arrival the trees have long grown in and the signs of it having been a plantation have all but disappeared.
But not all…

Kurt found the old family cemetery in the woods. Then brought me to see. We picked our way up a pine strewn hill along a barely visible path.
Afterwards we spent an hour harvesting the swarms of sticktight seeds off of our clothes.

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Failures

Four Nights near some of the best trees in the country. The first day motivation flagged, flaccid, a slippery eel, time slipped off and then it was too near dark to make it anywhere.
I got lost returning from the showers. Our campground neighbor showed me where they were and I made my way back by the light on my phone. Then it was darker than it should’ve been. And darker. Then people in tents were asking me if I was ok. Then another was bothering me more. I was “making them nervous” because they couldn’t “see me.” And they were far off from the rest of the camping “am I sure I’m fine.” I’m fine.

How do you get lost when you were shown the way? I figured it out, anyhow. Then almost got lost a second time.

Then we went to see the Angel Oak in Charleston…

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City traffic easily doubles the time of any drive. Two hours becomes four, becomes an entire day. For… a tree behind a chainlink fence and a gait locked on Wednesdays. (Yeah, the day I pick). I never would’ve guessed it was behind a fence beyond the reach of my camera. (Of course it is). The Angel Oak is massive, her trunk dances in the dappled sunlight, thick snake elephant trunks winding out from the base. Up and out. Sometimes dipping into the earth and back out. Live oaks slow dance with the earth, the sun, the rain and the wind.

Redeeming this week: all the other trees. The cypress inexplicably growing in and along the swamp waters. Their trunks quickly tapering from fat to narrow near the base. All presenting a clear high water line. Old groves of pecan trees, lined up and spaced out. Their crowns matured and trunks aged. Center piece trees set in small cemeteries, encircled by patina masonry walls. Pines towers straight to the heavens covered in veils of vines. And of course younger, but not young, Southern Live Oaks with their spreading canopies and green shag tinsel▪️

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Taryn Okesson: Visual Artist