I love trees, all kinds of trees, I have profound respect for trees, especially old trees. I love big trees, huge tall trees or massively spread out trees. I love gnarly twisted trees, ancient looking trees, trees with strange shapes, symmetrical trees, wonky trees, beaten and battered looking trees, trees bent over by harsh weather, tall trees, broad round trees, unusual trees, I just love how trees make me think.
Trees are amazing, the oldest trees on Earth are recorded at living up to 14,000 years. Yes, really, a single tree that has stood for more than ten thousand years – there are several around the world. In Utah, there is a colony of aspen trees that covers 106 acres, and the whole thing (it looks like a forest) is actually all connected underground in one vast root system, so in effect it is a single living organism – it weighs 6,600 tons and is estimated to be 80,000 years old, making it the heaviest living thing on Earth and one of the very oldest. Amazing!
But while there are dozens and dozens of trees around the world aged at between 1000 and 10,000 years old, there are literally thousands and thousands of trees around us everywhere which date to several hundred years old. These trees are everywhere. I often walk in parks and fields and see trees that – judging by their size, their height and spread – must be 200, 300 or 400 years old. Even trees of just 100 years old…I think to myself, ‘What have you witnessed in your time? What have you seen, tree?’
I look at a big old tree, and imagine all the things it has seen change and pass by as it has stood there for 200 years or 300 years. The changing landscape, the death of so much forest, the birth of towns, the growth in construction, changes in farming. When that tree was ‘a youngster’ there were no cars, or tractors, only horses. Not long ago, that tree was looking up at the sun, as she does every day, and suddenly, planes appeared, helicopters came along, where previously only birds had flown.
I think of the lovers who have walked by, holding hands, and stopped under that tree to kiss, to sit and talk, perhaps to sit in her branches and say ‘I love you’, maybe they carved their initials into her skin, or maybe they made love in her shade, maybe a new human life was conceived as she turned a respectful eye the other way.
I imagine she has heard many secret conversations, she may have witnessed violence, aggression, sadness, relationship break ups, she may have provided a comfortable place for the broken hearted, a restful place for a lonely person to contemplate his or her woes.
She will have provided a place for young boys to play, and then watched those boys turn to men, and bring their own sons to climb in her branches and play again, decades later.
I see trees and wonder, if they had voices, what memories they could share with us.
- Could they tell of how the air tastes different since we polluted our atmosphere?
- Could they tell of the weakening of the ozone layer, do leaves get sun burn? Can trees get ‘tree skin cancer’?
- Could they tell of the changes in people, in colour, culture, size and shape?
Next time you see a grand old tree, think about what she might have seen.
What can she see? Imagine her view, from 50 feet up, 100 feet up, 150 feet up, however tall she stands, what can she see, and how has her view changed in all directions, in her years standing there?
Think about what changes she has seen in the world, the storms she has stood up to, the world wars she has witnessed, the things and people who have passed within her reach, what she has heard, seen and known in her years standing there.
As J.Willard Marriott said “Good timber does not grow with ease; the stronger the wind, the stronger the tree.”