Brown among gray…

New break copyright 2013 Pamela Breitberg
New break copyright 2013 Pamela Breitberg

People aren’t the only natural elements that gray as they age. I have watched, over time, dogs’ coats turn to light gray also. One was our family toy poodle, the other my sister’s golden lab. Members of a forest also gray as they age, though most of this aging takes place after death. Personally I’m proud of my gray hairs; each is a badge of self-importance, verification that I’m ripe with knowledge and experience. Vanity is a reason so many persons regularly work to rid themselves of gray hair; but in my case perhaps vanity is a reason that I take pride in mine. Actually my hair is more and more white, which when mixed with darker hair yields an overall gray appearance. But I’m getting off track…

Observations in the forest reveal the relative period of time since a plant or its parts died. Time’s passing can be estimated by the amount of graying that has occurred. The brown leaves in this image are a recent fatality. First the leaves are still attached to the tree; second they are still brown and not yet grayed indicating recent death. The trunk was recently split because the inner wood has yet to gray. In contrast, the bark, made up of older dead parts is gray. It is unclear whether wind, age or lightning caused this tree to break. The bare, colorless winter landscape allows for easy observation of such events. Most gray tree parts are made of dead cells, but within them is the potential energy of carbon.

Winter forest copyright 2013 Pamela Breitberg
Winter forest copyright 2013 Pamela Breitberg

Gray in animals tends to be evidence of maturity; gray in plant parts tends to illustrate fatality. The ground cover has yet to gray but come spring the browns will have mellowed to ashen hues. I sport my gray hair proudly, though this time of year it’s hidden under layers of scarf and hood as I make my way through the forest.

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