Impressions #2

Impressions #2

Bald Cypress, Pamlico River, NC

The wetlands and waterways of the Carolina coastal plain are green in summer and barren in winter but for a brief period during the transition between one and the other, they are ignited by the colors of fire and rust when the bald cypress begin to withdraw their energy, hoarding it in their roots, and the chlorophyll drains from their leaves.

You might not expect to find a riot of Autumn colors in the swamp, but the bald cypress isn’t an ordinary tree. Unlike most other cypress trees, it isn’t evergreen. Its naked appearance in winter gives the tree its common name.

This old cypress tree, draped with Spanish moss, leaning over the Pamlico River reaching for the light, is just beginning to smolder with color. In a few weeks, maybe a few days, it will catch fire.

The tree is located on the south shore of the Pamlico River opposite Washington, NC. When Washington was a bustling river port, the south shore was its industrial stepchild, the site of sawmills and oil depots and commercial wharves. Now the undergrowth has overtaken industry and the old cypress trees remember the time of steam whistles and ships’ horns as a momentary anomaly, a passing strangeness. In the life of a tree that can span more than 2,000 years, the Industrial Age of humanity might seem like a dream, disturbing but transient.

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Charles Thrasher

An avid photographer deeply interested in the culture, geography, and history of coastal Carolina.
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