by John L
I love trees. In any size, shape or form, be they deciduous or evergreen, conifer or broadleaf, fruit-bearing or ornamental, I love trees.
I love the play of light through a single tree or an entire forest as sun and wind conspire to cast ever-changing shadows in a heaven-sent kaleidoscope that delights all my senses, inspires my heart and refreshes my soul. Yes, I love trees.
I love the sound of the wind sighing and soughing through the branches, leaves or needles of a million different trees as it rises and falls like a gigantic land-borne ocean. I love trees.
I love the sound of a thousand birds singing and chirping, flitting and flapping, cavorting in and amongst the leaves, branches and trunks of every kind and description of tree. I love trees.
I love the smell of a pine forest, sharp with the resinous smell that comes from billions of sap-swollen needles, just as I love the dusky perfume of a heavily-laden peach orchard in July and the scent of sage on a warm night’s wind blowing across native oak woodlands baking in California’s summer heat. I love trees.
I love the sharp crack and crunch of dried leaves and tinder under foot and the soft sponginess of pine needle duff so ancient its oldest members are more dust than needle, inches thick under trees that have stood for centuries, the stillness so powerful that even the wildest beast beneath it dares not spoil the quiet. I love trees.
I love the taste of sun-warmed fruit ripening, just waiting for the perfect moment to fall and disperse its seeds to sprout, take root and live for generations to come. And I especially love the dizzying matrix of a huge orchard laid out in precise rows as I drive by in my car, mesmerizing me with Escher-like geometry. I love trees.
I love the feel of a tree, and yes, I have hugged many a tree. Even the mighty redwood whose wispy, itchy hair manages to insinuate itself into my garments and onto my skin, all the while hiding a bark layer strong enough to withstand all but the most intense fire. Yes, I love trees.
This realization about trees came upon me the other day when I was confronted by a number of newly-cut redwood stumps dotting a small clearing on the heavily-wooded campus of a college near my home. The tree from whence the stumps were cut had obviously just been felled as the smell of redwood sap and fresh-cut wood hung heavily in the air. I searched in vain for the stump of whatever magnificent behemoth had fallen to earth and been chainsawed into countless thick, brute rounds.
A certain sadness came over me as I thought about the many years that majestic sentinel had proudly stood among its fellows watching over the sleepy campus below and for centuries before that the movements of indigenous peoples and animals busily going about their business far below.
How many days and nights had it watched animals and people scurrying to and fro in rain, drought, heat and cold as its branches swept back and forth, propelled by soft breezes, mild zephyrs and the gusty winds of a million different days?
Now it lay in disarray, its mighty trunk, once a living pump capable of draining a small lake, reduced now to five score of heavy inanimate stumps, each bearing within its rings the tale of its long life.
For the first time I saw those rings not as scientific, age-revealing oddities, but as the signposts of a life lived in full harmony with the world and its fellows until the demands of men called for its demise. I shed a tear, for I love trees.