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2006 09 06
Angle of Incident #19: Burl
image

By Gary Michael Dault

Burl, or as the Engish call it, Burr, is, as Wikipedia assures me, “often misunderstood. As it is a product of a cambium, it may not be compared to any phenomenon in animals or humans. A burl is a burl only if it is filled with small knots from dormant buds”.

Those seem to be the burl facts, from Wikipedia on up.

And as grateful as I am to have found find out something solid about burl, my real reason for photographing the burl-heavy tree posted here was that its burls seemed alive

Walking along a street with a burled tree on it is like driving a street with speed bumps. It slows you down.

Burl is all the more absorbing because it so decisively alters the tree’s vectorial reach for the sky. Most everything is pushing up and out with a tree, but the burl is swirling about in one place, on some botanical mission of its own, striking out sideways, defecting from and compromising the ascensional mission of the host tree.

Wild burl with its own life. Sylvan tumour: scary, like all wild-card, loose-cannon deviation from the conventional biological program.

However much trees feel alive, burl feels alive in an entirely different way. Burl is eddying wood, backing up on itself. Burl is intricate, solipsistic wood, self-involved, fugitive, cranky wood, come to excrescence. Burl is a sort of lateral cry from the tree, a kind of arborial id that speaks out directly against the yearning, superego of the tree’s noble reach towards the sky.

Burls seem like faces. Or like maelstroms of faces, whirling in wood the way teeming souls swirl in bronze through, say, Rodin’s Gates of Hell. Burls seem like utterances. Cries and whispers from the aching tree.

Burls remind me of all those sentient trees in pop cultural history: the irascible trees that hurl their apples at Dorothy and the scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz. Tolkien trees.

Burls seem like the locking-place, the navel, where someone was integrated and petrified into the tree’s growth—like the nymph Daphne, whose limbs become limns and who leafs out in a pastoral evasion of the advances of Apollo.

Those are burls that were her eyes.
[email this story] Posted by Gary Michael Dault on 09/06 at 12:35 PM

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