Follow the Yellow-Brick Road

When I was little, maybe three or four, I was obsessed with The Wizard of Oz. Even though I couldn’t look directly at the Wicked Witch of the West, I loved the hell out of those crazy sojourners, especially Dorothy and her “boobie-wed-swippahs” I long coveted. There was even a period of time when I insisted on being called Dorothy, and would answer to nothing else as I clicked my heels around the room, singing Follow the Yellow-Brick Road. And although I’ve had to wait a long, long time, last week I finally did skip along that golden road, though it wasn’t fancy bricks that made it glow. It was larches.

I love larches. I love them in spring, when their spindly, nubbed branches start sprouting those soft, bristly tufts of bright green. I love them in summer, how they feel against my palms when I comb through their needles, how they tickle my cheeks. But I especially love them in fall. Montana doesn’t offer many hardwoods, and though the riverbeds may shine with cottonwood and aspen, the slopes are entirely coniferous, wholly green. Until they aren’t.

Tamaracks are one of only a few deciduous conifers in the world, and we’ve got them in spades. They begin their slow seasonal¬†undress sometime in October, and by the end of the month the forests are on fire. Individual branches look like frozen sparklers, and when the wind gusts, the needles swirl and scatter like some strange and foreign snow. When the trees are finally bare, a thick carpet glows below.

I have had the immense good fortune of being granted caretaker rights over an incredible home, surrounded by larches. I will be here all winter, and will be thankful for every minute of it.

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