Paper birch, also called white birch and canoe birch
Here we are on the cusp between winter and springtime, weary of ice and snowdrifts, craving light and warmth. It is still below freezing much of the time, an icy wind scouring the bare trees and making the branches ring like old iron bells. Perhaps that is to be expected, for springtime is a puckish wight this far north, and after appearing, she sometimes disappears for days and weeks at a time.
For all that, late March days have a wonderful way of quieting one's thoughts and breathing patterns, bringing her back to a still and reflective space in the heart of the living world.
I sat on a log a few days ago, watching as tattered scraps of birch bark moved back and forth in the north wind. When the morning sun slipped out from behind the clouds, beams of sunlight passed through the blowing strands and turned them golden and translucent, for all the world like elemental stained glass.
When I touched the old tree in greeting, my fingers came away with a dry springtime sweetness on them that lingered for hours. I tucked a thin folio of bark in the pocket of my parka and inhaled its fragrance all the way home.