Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Two notable encounters

with 36 comments

As many years as I’ve lived in Austin (almost 46), and as many years as I’ve been seriously taking nature photographs (about half of 46), I still keep finding new places to ply my trade here, even as properties where I’ve worked have kept succumbing to development, including a few more already this year. On March 12th we trod the Twin Creeks Historic Park Trail in Cedar Park for the first time. About half a mile in, on the grounds of the mid-19th-century John M. King Log House, a man approximately my age came up to me and asked if I’d found an iPhone. He had one in his hand, but it turned out to be his wife’s, from which he was intermittently calling his lost phone to see if he could hear it ringing. Unfortunately he couldn’t.

About 10 minutes later Eve came across an iPhone in a case on a park bench, and of course that had to be the phone the man was looking for. The case included his driver’s license (and credit cards!), so I figured I’d be able to track him down, if necessary by driving to the address on his license. That proved unnecessary because it turned out that the man—surprisingly and again not prudently—kept his phone unlocked. As a result I was able to go into the phone, look at the log of recent calls, and call his wife’s phone. Talk about making someone’s day. We hung around while the man walked all the way back from the parking area, which he had just reached when I called. He said that after three round trips between the parking lot and the old log house, he wouldn’t need to do his stationary bicycle that evening.

Near the log house and then further along the easy-to-walk trail, I stopped every now and then to photograph several prominent sycamore trees with white limbs, one of which appears below. Most interesting, though, was the sycamore shown in the top picture, which had apparently fallen across a creek and then managed to stay alive for years, as evidenced by the large vertical branches rising from the horizontal trunk. Strange, don’t you think?

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 22, 2022 at 4:30 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , ,

36 Responses

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  1. A lovely tale, Steve, and heartwarming that people still are as kind as you have been. Nature is surprisingly resilient.



    March 22, 2022 at 5:54 AM

    • While we can’t deny that thieves and other dishonorable people exist, I just did what I assume most people would have done.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 22, 2022 at 6:22 AM

  2. Very strange indeed, this is real survival !


    March 22, 2022 at 6:28 AM

  3. Having spent a substantial amount of time retracing my steps through the Big Thicket’s Solo Tract to find the car keys that had dropped out of my pocket, I have a sense of that fellow’s relief when the lost was found. That was quite a hassle avoided, if not something worse.

    I noticed last weekend that the two large trees at the entrance to the Attwater visitor center are sycamores, and I just discovered the Sycamore trail. The next time I go I plan to hike that one, although I doubt I’ll find anything as cool as nature’s attempt to create a dugout canoe with outriggers!


    March 22, 2022 at 7:45 AM

    • I’m relieved that you, like that man, could say “All’s well that ends well.”
      Great description: “a dugout canoe with outriggers.” In fact I’d wondered if someone had contributed to the hollowing out of the sycamore log. And the upright limbs almost seemed to have been grafted on.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 22, 2022 at 8:13 AM

  4. Lucky fellow had you find his phone! Yes it is interesting how trees manage to stay alive despite what happens to them. Very resilient.

    Alessandra Chaves

    March 22, 2022 at 8:25 AM

  5. I bet that the iPhone slipped out of the man’s pocket while sitting on the bench. Similar losses happened to me with car keys and other valuables. Since then, I have preferred pockets with a zipper.

    Peter Klopp

    March 22, 2022 at 9:16 AM

    • You’re probably right that the phone slipped out of the man’s pocket. I have my iPhone in a case that clips tightly onto my belt, so I don’t worry about the phone falling out.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 22, 2022 at 11:44 AM

  6. That is a bit bizarre about the tree still thriving after the branch broke off! Amazing too.

    How wonderful for that guy that you were the one that found his phone and were able to get it back to him while he was still in the park!


    March 22, 2022 at 9:58 AM

    • Yes, our timing was good. If the man hadn’t asked me a little earlier whether I’d found his phone, I wouldn’t have known the backstory. On the other hand, I probably would’ve done the same thing: use the unlocked phone to call the most recent numbers listed in the call log.

      As for the sycamore, its fallen trunk somehow managed to stay alive and provide all the nutrients for the new upright limbs. People have drawn lessons of resilience from it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 22, 2022 at 12:44 PM

  7. I’ve seen willows do that – get blown over and continue to thrive – but never a sycamore. A good poster illustration for resilience “Every setback is an opportunity for growth.”

    Robert Parker

    March 22, 2022 at 10:04 AM

    • As a matter of fact, just the other day in a different park that was new to us I saw a large black willow tree whose trunk was mostly horizontal, with vertical and other-angled branches coming off it.

      While the adjective resilient and the noun resilience are common, the verb that they come from is not. Call it a setback for resile.


      Steve Schwartzman

      March 22, 2022 at 12:49 PM

      • I don’t think I’ve ever seen “resile” used. Or “sile” either, for that matter. “Silage,” on the other hand, I’m very familiar with seeing and smelling, it’s pretty common in areas with dairy farms. And “silo” is also very familiar, from farms and discussions of nuclear weapons, although farm silos are always aboveground and missile silos I think are always belowground.

        Robert Parker

        March 22, 2022 at 2:05 PM

        • I’ve never seen resile used, either. Finding it in so many dictionaries two hours ago surprised me. The main part of the word is found in our verb to sally, which we got from Old French, where it evolved from Latin. That Latin verb has also given us salient and salience.

          Silo, on the other hand, is unrelated. Here’s the American Heritage Dictionary’s etymology of it: “Spanish, from Old Spanish, underground cavity, grain storage pit, silo, probably of pre-Roman substrate origin; akin to Basque zilo, zulo, hole, lair, den.”

          Steve Schwartzman

          March 22, 2022 at 2:29 PM

          • I’ve seen “sally ports” on old forts and castles, but otherwise it only seems to be used ironically or humorously, like “Sally forth into mortal combat at the Black Friday sales.”
            So for modern farms, where I think storage pits are kind of uncommon, I guess it should be something like “silo sobre el suelo” or “torre grano?” At least in the area where I grew up, “silage pits” are also above ground, usually 3-sided concrete rooms, like a roofless garage.

            Robert Parker

            March 22, 2022 at 2:55 PM

            • There’s also the noun:
              ▸ a venture off the beaten path (“A sally into the wide world beyond his home”)
              ▸ a military action in which besieged troops burst forth from their position
              ▸ witty remark

              Apparently Spanish silo originally designated underground storage, and then by extension also storage above the ground. That sort of semantic shift is common. Your “silo sobre el suelo” is a nice alliterative phrase.

              Steve Schwartzman

              March 22, 2022 at 4:50 PM

  8. Trees are among the most remarkable creatures on earth, so I’m not surprised by how the fallen sycamore kept sprouting new life, but it’s noteworthy to say the least. And it’s easy to see how you and your wife made that other couple’s day by finding and returning his phone and credit cards. It probably made yours, too, as “it is more blissful to give than to receive.”


    March 22, 2022 at 12:14 PM

    • We were glad to be of service. Come to think of it, the fallen tree trunk was of service, too. And that brings us to Milton’s famous sonnet, “On His Blindness”:


      And speaking of language, it’s interesting how your version of “It is more blessèd to give than to receive” has “blissful” for the similar-sounding “blessèd.” Few non-etymologists know that the verb “bless” in Old English was “bledsian,” in which the original notion of ‘consecrate by blood’ could still be seen:


      Steve Schwartzman

      March 22, 2022 at 12:57 PM

      • Even in claiming that my train of thought was more sanguine, I wouldn’t get away from blood. Not really what I had in mind!


        March 22, 2022 at 10:13 PM

        • But your “blissful” got you around the connection inherent in “blessed.”

          In the same sort of way that “bledsian” got simplified to “bless,” “bliss” had earlier been “bliths,” which still retained the connection to “blithe.” According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, Old High German had “blidi,” which meant “gay, friendly.’

          Steve Schwartzman

          March 23, 2022 at 7:12 AM

  9. A good deed done! He’s lucky his credit cards especially didn’t fall into the wrong hands.

  10. Must love sycamores.


    March 22, 2022 at 5:34 PM

  11. Fortunately you weren’t stumped by how to return the phone to the owner. The fallen tree was not stumped by its condition either. https://www.newscientist.com/article/2211209-tree-stumps-that-should-be-dead-can-be-kept-alive-by-nearby-trees/


    March 22, 2022 at 10:13 PM

  12. Your good deed of the day… 👍🏻


    March 23, 2022 at 6:20 PM

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