“Spruce Sprout on Stump”

Spruce Sprout on Stump, Abajo Mountain, SE Utah (c) Mike Utley

While exploring the Abajo (Blue) Mountain in southeast Utah in the summer of 1996, I came across this tiny blue spruce sprout growing on an old blackened stump. I was struck by the brilliant green—the color of youth and vitality—and how it contrasted with the dark tones of the stump—age and fatigue. The textures were also a study in contrast, with the smooth, supple flesh of the sprout defying the harsh, rough wood of the base of the old dead tree. I’m fascinated by contrasts in nature, and this mini-tableau was brimming with them. Life and death? Youth and old-age? Color and a lack thereof? Tenderness and harsh reality? Perseverance in the face of all odds? The inexorability of life where none should exist? Anyone who knows me will realize the main emotion I felt when I saw this scene was one of quiet stillness and contemplation. This sprout speaks to me on a fundamental level, telling me there is hope—always, there is hope—even in death. If we take the time to actually see what is around us in nature, we can sense change in our lives and an invigoration of our spirits…and because of this intrinsic truth, it’s all the more important that we are good stewards of our earth. Nature nurtures our souls, and once it’s gone, then there will be no more hope for us. (Canon gear, Fuji Velvia ISO 50)

37 thoughts on ““Spruce Sprout on Stump”

    1. Thanks, Michelle. I agree. I think we as a species have lost our bearings and have gotten away from what really matters in life, and that’s understanding that we are a part of nature, not apart from it or above it. When we screw things up, it has a cascading effect on everything around us. Nature studies should be a required course for all students in order to fully understand our place in this world. It’s a nice thought, of course, but it won’t happen. It’s always going to be a battle against those who see the earth as a resource repository ripe for the picking. Funny thing is, though, the earth will heal and outlast us after we destroy ourselves. Then it’ll be a paradise. I hope we wise up before it’s too late.

      Liked by 3 people

  1. If oneneeded a symbol that stood for perseverance, hope, confidence and the like, your photo would be the ideal example. So much statement in “so little” matter, so much light in so much darkness. Another beautiful job, Mike!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks so much, Friedrich. I love these little hidden messages in nature. I was driving up the mountain that afternoon, looking for columbines to photograph. I stopped and made some images, then noticed this stump and sprout. It was the very definition of serendipity–such a pleasant surprise, as though it had been waiting there for me all along. Like you mentioned, so much is said here by only two objects. Instances such as this are what made nature photography so enjoyable for me. I appreciate your kind remarks, as always. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    1. My pleasure, Filipa, and thank you so much for your ever-present kindness and support. I’m so glad you enjoyed this. Your wonderful comments mean so much to me. 🙂


  2. I love how your thought process works, Mike. There’s so much you take away from a tiny plant or a change in the day’s light. It’s because of your keen sense of observation and the ensuing opinions and emotions. I admire your skill and the keen attention for detail. Someone who can see beyond the realm of vision is very much blessed with the gift of an impressive imagination. That would be you! Will be in touch with you very soon. Take care. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks as always for such a nice response, Terveen. I’ve always been an imaginative person, so seeing things beyond the obvious is sort of natural for me. I think my deafness adds to this, forcing me to rely on visual clues to a much higher degree than normally hearing people. So, I’m always looking at things in a different way, I suppose. Your kind appraisals of my words and images always brighten my day and I thank you for that. A tip o’ the cap to you, my friend! *tips cap* 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Many thanks, Grace. I’m glad this image successfully conveyed the power of hope. It’s why I chose it for my blog header image. I like the symbolism of not only the obvious quiet, solitary aspect of the lone sprout, but its strength and defiance of all odds. Glad you liked this one. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks a bunch. I tend to gravitate towards scenes such as this, where there’s a solitary symbolic object of strength or hope or tranquility in a chaotic world. I love dead trees for this reason. Even in death, they still represent resiliency and hope in some strangely curious way. I like the idea of birds building nests in dead trees. It’s so symbolic of the continuance of the world and all things in it. I’m happy to know this one meant something to you. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much, Diana. I agree with you about finding answers in nature. Collectively, we seem to have some sort of weird, contagious ADHD and we can’t be bothered to stop, look and listen to what nature has to offer. Imagine if we all could just slow down and be open to the trees and the moon and the streams and the animals… We’d have a much gentler world, I think. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, David. I know I sort of gush about the natural world (a lot), but it holds such deep, profound meaning for me. I try to share it in my images and words. I think being raised on a farm certainly set the course for me to be close to the natural world. I was so fortunate to be able to be involved in nature photography for as long as I was. It wasn’t long enough, but I was able to experience some beautiful epiphanies as well as some amazing instances of serendipity. I truly appreciate your kindness, my friend. It means so much to me. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you dearly, Xenia. I can’t help but to feel a little bit of hope and inspiration when I look at this diminutive sprout. Tree stumps are sort of like treasure chests–you never know what you may find when you stumble across one in the forest. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Jeff, I wonder what happened to that little spruce sprout… It’s been 26 years now, and I hope it’s grown strong and true. I appreciate your kind support, my friend. 🙂


  3. s.s.

    Mike…Beautiful insight into nature! Thank you for writing for your inspiring photograph

    forest rain pelting
    arms of old oak circle sapling
    ~ phone screen wants more

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you kindly, Sangeetha. I appreciate your wonderful words. And thanks for including your brilliant haiku. Your imagery is so peaceful and calm and evokes a feeling of safety. Beautiful words from a master poet. 🙂


  4. Pingback: forest ~ a haiku – Mindfills

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