Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Definitions: Krummholz

(1) Dorleen Krummholz, the first girl who ever agreed to go on a date with me.

She did this out on the playground on a clear September morning during recess.

This would be around sixth grade, which is a bit early to start dating, or at least it was a bit early in my day, but Dorleen was a big girl, forward for her age, and had me in a headlock at the time.

Her technique was, first the headlock of course, and then telling me what to say, and how to make it sound like a request, and then, to wrap it all up, she showed me this big grin full of teeth and said Yes!, with an undue amount of enthusiasm I thought at the time.

I remember the teeth because they were in front of me, right in front of me, really close to my nose, which she said she'd bite off if I didn't do what she said, and then she'd pound me too.

Since I still all too clearly remembered the first time she pounded me, there was no need to go through all that again, and anyway, the teeth.

So you learn to do what you have to.

Shortly after that, at the age of 12, I grew a beard, changed my name, and moved to a different continent, but still wake up in a cold sweat about every third night, or whenever I hear barking.

Dorleen used to bark a lot you see, and it spooks me something fierce, even when it's only my neighbor's dog going off again. His name is Tom. My neighbor's name is Federico, I think.

Anyway, Tom has this disturbing resemblance to you-know-who, so it might be time to move again, at least so I can get some sleep.

(2) Foliage that looks like Dorleen Krummholz. Literally it means crooked wood in German, which sounds about right in German, or in any other language really. Tough. Gnarly. Stunted. Bent. Undead.

(3) Krummholz is a high-altitude stunt-forest found right around treeline, where there is too little moisture, too little soil, too much wind and lots of winter.

It's patchy.

And although those krummholzy things are actually trees, genetically, in practice they are severely dwarfed and misshapen exercises in tortured vegetation due to the climate and the soils they grow in.

Given the barren rocky soils, the short growing season, and the smothering snowfalls, it's no wonder they call these barely alive ratty collections of woody despair procumbent.

Procumbent is a delicate way of describing something that lives a prostrate, beaten-down, and thoroughly unhappy life groveling in the dirt just for the chance to remain in place, suffer through another winter, and do it over again year after year forever, or until a long-delayed death happens to come for a visit.