The inspiring story of the Angel Oak…

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A six-image panorama of the Angel Oak, one of the oldest trees east of the Mississippi.

Being in the presence of a huge live oak tree that may be older than half a millennium and has survived hurricanes and floods is awe-inspiring enough, but even more so is the story of the determined young woman who set out to save the tree from destruction.

When I was looking at images of Charleston, South Carolina recently, I ran across pictures of an amazing old tree called the Angel Oak, which captivated me. It looks like something out of a beautifully illustrated children’s fable.

I discovered that it wasn’t too far from the B and B we were booked to stay at. I really wanted to see this unique tree and pay homage to its fortitude. I thought I’d like to try a panorama shot of the tree.

But once I dug a little deeper and found out the whole story behind it, I was even more eager to make the visit.

man and tree for scale

The Angel Oak Tree stands 66.5 ft (20 m) tall, measures 28 ft (8.5 m) in circumference, and produces shade that covers 17,200 square feet (1,600 m2). There is considerable debate about the age of the Angel Oak. Some contend that it is more than 1,000 years old. Most believe that it’s probably more like 400 to 500 years. BUT STILL!

Live oaks stay green all year round and never appear to be without life, not something we see in our part of Canada. It has been said that “the Angel Oak’s branches look like they have slowly moved heaven and earth. Some are as long as a blue whale and as thick as a hippopotamus.”


Siegel: “When you’re standing at the base of the tree, you see the world through the eyes of a child again. You understand how connected the world is.”

Not only is this the story of a tree that wouldn’t give up, it’s the story of a young woman named Samantha Siegel, who also refused to give up.

Samantha had loved the tree all her young life — and had even written a novel featuring it. Angels Living in Trees: A Brief History on Roots tells the stories of the women who have lived around the tree over the centuries, from a Native American to a slave, to Martha Angel (the tree’s namesake) to a modern day woman, Sophie. Siegel wrote the book in the shade of the Angel Oak’s branches over three months in 2007.

When she found out in 2008 that the land around was slated for development she feared for the tree and determined to mount a campaign to stop it. Initially it was a one-woman campaign because although  many signed her petition, nobody thought there was even a slight chance she could actually change anything.

bob and treelr

She was quoted as saying: “Every city employee, every government employee, said, ‘It’s a done deal. There’s nothing you can do,’ and looked at me like, ‘You poor, little, young, idealistic girl. You’re not going to make a difference,'” says Siegel.

It was a long, hard, complicated battle. Samantha and her supporters spent huge swaths of time doing meticulous research, gathering supporters, and constructing road signs to oppose the development. They set up a web site and organized public meetings.

In the end, Samantha instigated enough public awareness and support that adequate funds were raised to purchase the land immediately around the tree and a parcel beyond that. Development was stopped.

Samantha says that she “went from a stagnant dreamer to a full-blown activist in a matter of days. Sometimes it takes something like this to wake you up.”

Here’s a short video of the tree and a remarkable young woman who wouldn’t take no for an answer.

Thank you, Samantha. Such an inspiring story to start the New Year.

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Another view of the Angel Oak






Almost heaven…

blackwater falls

Blackwater Falls

I am such a cliche!

It was my first time in West Virginia — other than passing through — and all I can sing is John Denver’s song…”Country Roads”.

Mostly in my head…but sometimes in the car, heh heh, in my inimitable out-of-tune style…

I just can’t help it.

But he sure got it right.

Almost heaven, West Virginia
Blue ridge mountains, Shenandoah river
Life is old there, older than the trees
Younger than the mountains, growin’ like a breeze… 

We were invited to stay at a remote cabin in the eastern part of the state that had been built by a friend’s son using plans provided by Bob’s brother. A lovely cosy place with a fireplace that got quite a work out!

It was a very short trip — and the weather was rainy and misty pretty much the whole time.

But that didn’t deter us.

The first day we drove to Seneca Rocks…

When we returned home, I posted this image on Facebook just to give my friends a little taste of where I was.

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Seneca Rocks

And what did I see? “You’re here? So am I!!!!!!!”


A fabulous photographer, Denise, (see her wonderful photography and writing here) who I had met while taking an online class a while back had been in exactly the same place the same day. And we had eaten in the same deli.

And neither of us knew it.

She posted her shot of Seneca Rocks too.

Now what are the chances of that happening? (We live in Canada 560 miles away and she lives in Ohio.)

Sadly, our trip was too short to figure out a way to meet up (next time!), but we had some good Facebook chats.

I surely appreciated her tips and advice and soaked up her enthusiasm for the area. Her family roots go deep and her passion is profound for the landscape and the people.

I can well see why now. She and her husband and dog, Arthur, the cutest Corgi ever, love to cruise the backroads of the state soaking up the colour and atmosphere.

And that was what we did too.

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I dedicate this post to Denise, a real life mountain momma…

Sing with me…

Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong
West Virginia, mountain momma
Take me home, country roads

— John Denver

Houseboats on the bay…


As someone who lives on a boat part of the year and loves it, it’s probably not that surprising that I’ve always been fascinated by houseboats — and would love to spend some time in one.

This summer our trip to the Northwest Territories to see family meant that we flew in and out of Yellowknife, which is 250 miles from the Arctic Circle.

This gave us a chance to see a unique community of houseboats in Yellowknife Bay, right near Old Town — Yellowknife’s original centre.

Old Town was founded in the 1930’s when gold was discovered in the area, and is situated on the shore of Great Slave Lake, a body of fresh water the size of Ireland.

I took this photo from the top of “the Rock”, a six-story rock hill in the centre of Old Town.

The image shows part of a community of houseboats that float between Old Town and nearby islands. It is made up of some 40 fully framed houses mounted on floating, anchored barges. Some are simple, one-story cabins. Others are elaborate, two-storey bungalows. I love the bright colours many are painted.

Who lives here? A mix of artists, professionals and government employees who largely work in town.

As the homes are offshore, they are not legally part of the municipality of Yellowknife so their owners don’t pay municipal taxes. But they also don’t receive services such as electricity, gas and garbage collection. Households are run on a combination of solar electricity, propane, diesel generators and wood stoves, and must deal with their own waste disposal.

In winter, they contend with extreme temperatures. Great Slave Lake is frozen six to seven months of the year. In winter, the boats remain frozen in place by ice one-to-two-metres thick. Without central gas heating, these homes can get nippy.

Some of the owners operate Bed and Breakfasts from their houseboats, giving visitors to the North the opportunity for a unique living experience.

I was curious to find out more about what these houseboats are like inside. If you are too, have a look at this short video. The video features the houseboat that is second from the top left in this image.

Having seen this I still love the idea of staying in one of these — in the summer. I think I will pass on the winter stay.

McAvoy Rock, Yellowknife

painted rock

Yellowknife, Northwest Territories

Walking through Old Town in Yellowknife, you can’t help but be stopped by this striking large-scale public art painted on a very large rock face.

This is McAvoy Rock and the art and sculpture are part of a cross-cultural project initiated by the Federation Franco-Tenoise.

The project began in 1999 with the creation of a marble sculpture by Yellowknife artist Sonny MacDonald, Dene carver John Sabourin, Eli Nasogaluak from Tuktoyaktuk and  Armand Vaillancourt from Montreal.

This marble sculpture is on permanent exhibit in the Great Hall of the Legislative Assembly. A bronze copy of the sculpture is pictured here at the foot of McAvoy Rock.

The first phase also saw the creation of 1,500 multi-coloured symbols painted directly onto the facade of the rock and the installation of a teepee at the summit.

It symbolizes hope for better understanding and cooperation between different peoples. Something there can never be too much of…

More wildness…

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Frame Lake, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories

You need more wildness in your life.

Max Gladstone

Take this however you want, but, really, who can argue with it?

Often nature is just what the doctor ordered…

This short spoof about prescription-strength nature has been going around and if you haven’t seen it yet, why not take a moment to watch this!

It is sure to make you smile…



The language of cranes…

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Sandhill cranes nest in the wetlands of the Northwest Territories before beginning their trek south for the winter. 

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Mated pairs of sandhill cranes stay together year round, and migrate south as a group with their offspring. Both males and females incubate the eggs. Their calls are unique — they give loud, rattling bugle calls, each lasting a couple of seconds and often strung together — and can be heard up to 2.5 miles away. 

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These cranes have a large wingspan, typically 1.65 to 2.29 m (5 ft 5 in to 7 ft 6 in), which make them very skilled soaring birds, similar in style to hawks and eagles.

Listen to their unique calls here… 

The Sandhills 

The language of cranes

we once were told

is the wind. The wind

is their method,

their current, the translated story

of life they write across the sky…

Linda Hogan

Images are from my August trip to Canada’s North, (above the 60th parallel) — the spectacular Northwest Territories…