The Tree

Caution – post may inspire unbridled tree-hugging.

I have this thing that I do, whenever I am afraid of dying… I think about a tree.  Any tree, really. Though I am especially drawn to big trees. In George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels, he describes a fictional type of coniferous evergreen tree, called a Sentinel. There is a giant sequoia living in Giant Forest Grove in Three Rivers, CA that stands at 257.6 feet tall, measuring 79 feet in circumference. It is named The Sentinel. It is not the largest of the giant sequoias, but I love the name. Both trees, the fictional species and the real life giant sequoia, embody the type of tree that I am drawn to. I believe that trees really are sentinels. They keep watch. Trees endure.

This endurance is part of the reason that thinking about trees calms me. When I think about the inevitability of my own death, I am scared. Scared of what I do not know. Scared that there is nothing I can do to prevent it. However, when I am gone, the trees will remain. This thought comforts me profoundly. It is almost as though the tree serves as a reminder that all of this is not about me. There is a world here, a vast and beautiful world, which will endure long after I am gone.

Trees do more for me than just shed light on a wider perspective, though. Trees inspire strength. After all, the image of a towering tree, reaching into a crisp sky, roots plunged deep into the Earth, is a powerful one indeed. Trees withstand storms, earthquakes, fires. Trees not only survive such hardships, they grow despite them.

The oldest known living tree is Old Tjikko. Located in Sweden, it is believed to be about 9,550 years old. Imagine, for a moment, the vastness of that time period. Imagine the lives that have come and gone, the world which has changed so dramatically, since Old Tjikko first sprouted. Imagine all that has passed since Old Tjikko first began its watch.

Trees are nature’s sentinels. They are the watchers of our planet. Standing proud and strong, they not only outlast trials and the passage of time, but they have the nerve to grow through it.

Trees endure, and there is so much peace and strength in knowing that.

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