By early December all the deciduous trees have dropped their leaves. The surrounding lawns have been blown clear of detritus and the only sign of the former foliage is in the woods. The leaves have long since lost their color and are an uneven gray separated by small mounds of green moss that cling to the cold rocks on the hill.
The bark of the trees is what distinguishes them this time of year. The bark of the beech, while stubbornly holding onto a few pale leaves, is a smooth light gray and is contrasted against a nearby black cherry with its burnt-potato-chip looking sheathing. The few sugar maples in view have stored all their sap deep in their roots and are the big shaggy barked trees that stand out. The Norway maples, oaks, and ashes are less distinctive. A few black birches with their horizontal lenticels break up the pattern. Up high the tulip trees distinguish themselves with fat buds on the end of their branches.
But it is the high branches of these Ent-like giants reaching up high that make a difference. Rather than being hidden as it has for the last six months, the sky finally opens up letting in the light that has so long escaped being directly seen. The shadows in the back are no longer a solid blob of dark but a pattern of thin and thick lines.
The complement of this pattern can be seen against the sky as the clear blue background is now divided into many tiny domains, each unique in its shape and color. Birds are now framed irregularly as they rest between feeding and foraging. This in-between space changes each winter as some trees get taller with a thicker canopy of branches, while other trees have lost limbs and others have disappeared completely leaving a new space of divisions to be explored. But nature abhors a void and starting in the Spring, neighbors will look to fill in and claim these spaces, creating a new view.