Friday, December 3, 2010

Friday photo

Lodgepole pine. Fern Cascades trail, Yellowstone National Park, January 2004.

Two weeks ago I posted a photo of the Old Faithful Inn, whose railings and faux supports are made of bare lodgepole pine logs. These were originally put in place with their bark intact, but the logs were "peeled" in 1940. Lo and behold, it was discovered that Nature had already decorated the beams with an intricate grooved tracery, courtesy of countless pine bark beetles. No one knew.

Similarly, the tree above has been scoured by beetles, whose action would have been invisible until the tree was killed during the 1988 North Fork fire. I have to admit, I don't understand why the outlines of the beetle trails are darkened, but not the interior or the rest of the tree. But it's an attractive arrangement nonetheless. Nature is an artist.

I doubt the patterns have as much mathematical structure as has been claimed for Jackson Pollock paintings (purportedly an intuitive application of fractal patterning), but that section to the left looks to me almost like a form of writing, perhaps the sort of thing that Mayan glyphs might have evolved into over time.

By the way, leaning into a tree while standing on a 30-degree slope on skis is not the easiest way to get a sharp photograph. So I'm a bit proud of that.


James Hanley said...

Do you know why they peeled the bark off the logs in the Inn? That seems like a radical decision--a major aesthetic change and not easily reversible.

Scott Hanley said...

According to Karen Reinhart's and Jeff Henry's book, the bark was considered a fire hazard. One of their sources also told them that housekeepers hated dusting them and some of the tourists complained about snagging their clothes. That might be true, but it's hard to believe they would alter the traditional look of the Inn just for convenience - especially for any housekeepers' convenience.

James Hanley said...

Maybe it was the combination of issues. As for the housekeepers, maybe it was that their complaints had some merit in a way that mattered to management--i.e., maybe they couldn't dust the bark well, so that it always looked unclean?