With the weather quickly approaching summertime warmth during the day, Mrs Thomson and I decided to do our first woodland hike of the season today. We went back to our usual spring opener, a relatively flat 6 kilometre trail that wends its way through second growth forest, swamp and marshland. We weren’t the only ones feeling the need to shed the last of the unnaturally cold winter’s cobwebs from our brains, and the trail was well traveled, even if nature still looked a tad bare thanks to the late spring. Leaves are only beginning to emerge from their buds, while the ducks and geese aren’t as plentiful as they’ve usually been in early May. Comparing from year to year, nature is a few weeks behind. I hope that we’ll make up for the missed weeks of warmth with a later than usual onset of winter, but I doubt we’ll be so lucky.

With most of the greenery still coming from coniferous trees, the layers of decay in the undergrowth were particularly visible. One rotten tree trunk in particular caught my attention as it was proof that there was artistry and beauty even in putrefaction. It hadn’t caught my attention last year, probably because it was still mostly whole, and I know it won’t be there, or at least won’t be in that form next year.

Rotting tree trunk. Canon 5D Mark III; 70-300mm lens @ 75mm focal length; f/7.1, 1/250, ISO400

Rotting tree trunk.
Canon 5D Mark III; 70-300mm lens @ 75mm focal length; f/7.1, 1/250, ISO400

There is a trend in science-fiction to write stories about or set in decaying institutions, empires, republics and what have you. It’s not a new trend, but in recent years it has become more widespread and in your face, or at least so it seems to me. Whether it’s a reflection of the pessimism many feel for the future of our current civilization, that malaise that seems to permeate western societies, or simply a fad is up for question. But like as not, some stories set in a universe filled with rot can really grip the imagination, showing that even there, we can find beauty in decay.