Saturday, October 12, 2019

Treefollowing, Literary Art & Wyoming Coal

Treefollowing on a cold windy day—note bundled-up photographer reflected in window.
Back in March, I decided to follow a pair of hawthorns growing next to the building that houses the Department of Visual and Literary Arts at the University of Wyoming. By July, I had concluded these most likely were Russian Hawthorns, Crataegus ambigua, following suggestions of several readers; also, Russian Hawthorn cultivars are popular in Wyoming. But I still haven’t checked with the University landscaping folks for confirmation.

Despite the severe cold last week (low of 0º F, -18º C), my hawthorns were covered in leaves—a mix of dull green and several shades of reddish brown.
With their haws fully ripe, these trees revealed that they are more productive than I had thought. But they still are slackers compared with their fecund neighbors!
Above and below: my hawthorns.
Above and below: neighboring hawthorns loaded with ripe haws.
One reason I chose these hawthorns over several other candidate trees on campus was their proximity to the Arts building—a pleasant and interesting place to duck out of the wind, cold, rain, etc. There are several galleries, display cases in the lobby, and works of art scattered through and outside of the building. Not knowing much about art, I've enjoyed expanding my horizons.

The inclusion of literary art intrigued me. When I first visited, I assumed this piece on display in the lobby was an example:
Literary art?
Or perhaps the works currently in the main gallery—Joanne Kluba’s Artist Books:
L’Atlantide, Artist Book; Joanne Kluba, 2003.
Mindfullness, Artist Book; Joanne Kluba, 2006.

But no. Literary Art refers to creative writing, which was transferred from the English Department just recently. This is where Wyoming coal comes in.

Wyoming’s economy is being hit hard with the decline of coal, a major source of state income. Multiple big mines have closed, their companies now in bankruptcy, including Peabody Energy—made famous in John Prine’s Paradise.
As a result, the University of Wyoming has cut and reorganized programs. Though the English Department still exists, creative writing was put in Visual Arts—no idea why. At least it wasn't eliminated, as was poetry.
Departmental sign not yet updated.

This is my contribution to the monthly virtual gathering of treefollowers, kindly hosted by The Squirrel Basket. Consider joining us! It's always interesting and fun—and no pressure :)


  1. hello Hollis,
    -18C wow that is cold!
    I wonder if the reason the Russian hawthorns you are following have less haws is because the birds have eaten some from those trees, you say they are in a more sheltered spot than the other hawthorns, my rowans always lose their berries quickly to the birds while I see other rowans dripping with berries.
    I like the book art, sad about the poetry department, cutbacks, cutbacks, every where it seems. Frances

    1. Interesting point, Frances -- yes, could well be the case there close to the south-facing walls. Now I will head over to see what's going on with your tree :)

  2. Good choice for your tree--for the interesting species, growth, and berries, AND the more comfy location during the cold months. I had no idea you were THAT cold...that's crazy! I thought near freezing was bad enough in mid-October! Time for parkas and long underwear. Brrrr...

    1. Beth, I did get out the parkas & long underwear ... also warmer bedding, drapes etc. Now we're back to highs in the low 60s. Oh well, I'm not complaining!

  3. Fascinating and wide-ranging post and pictures as always!
    Those books certainly look like art to me but sorry to hear about the cuts (yes, they are everywhere...)
    Perhaps the Russian hawthorn berries are tastier?
    All the best :)

    1. Pat, another reader suggested I taste them and perhaps make jam ... but I will need to get over there soon, we'll see.

  4. Pretty berries.

    I'm greatful we haven't gotten to the cold part of winter yet where I am. Only a few degrees below freezing so far...

    It always seems to be tempting to reduce the arts subjects when schools are short of time or money. Not just at universities but at every level of education. Here in Sweden the state recently tried to completely remove ancient history and antiquity (ancient Greece, Rome etc.) from the curriculum for all primary (and I think also secondary) schools in the country. Thankfully the teachers protested so much that the state had to surrender and allow at least a few classes on the subject. We are after all supposed to reduce class differences between children, not increase them!

    1. I'm impressed that your teachers were able to save at least some of the classes. I don't think our (state) government would listen here.