For those of you who don't live in wooded areas, especially pine forests, a controlled burn is a small forest fire. Forests do have to burn from time to time--it gets rid of dry tangled undergrowth, breaks down twigs and leaves and fallen logs into soil, and melts the pine resin in the tree trunks to form a hard barrier that discourages bugs. Rather than have a huge forest fire when Nature is so inclined, the Forestry department does small controlled burns on a regular basis.
A controlled burn is rather like a tame tiger--in theory it's safe, and you can walk right up to it, but if there's an unexpected shift in mood on wind it can suddenly get very dangerous very fast. So there's sort of a primal excitment in driving down the road with the woods on fire. Even more so if you get out of the car and just walk up to it. We followed one the other day:
Within a week, fresh new grown will appear. Rationally, I know that these are palmettos with charred trunks and new growth. That doesn't stop me from truly believing that they are some kind of alien life form.
Last weekend we went hiking in a cypress swamp, and I discovered where all those pointy-headed garden gnomes come from--they just grow out of the earth.
This one is starting to grow his face--I imagine that he'll be up and walking around before too long.
And I wonder why some people find living in a swamp to be a bit creepy!