As I have alluded to in the past I left Northern California for four years, first spending two years in Appalachia and following that a warming up period in the deserts of Arizona. Probably because I lived on the coast of Mendocino County where there are pygmy forests, I never saw the desert as what others did, a desert. I saw the desert as a different kind of pygmy forest. I know this sounds strange but I doubt I will ever change that perception. Just think Small Trees. (That’s all you need to understand.)
What is more understandable probably is that because I was accustomed to living among very large and very old trees, while I loved the pygmy forests of Arizona (and even miss them, especially the saguaro cactus, along with the desert wren and doves that graced my days so beautifully–sigh) I did feel a vacuum when it came to Trees. I did not fully realize this, however, until I visited a large Unitarian Church one Sunday. I arrived early and walked the ample inviting grounds, appreciating the statuary, and the creative gardens which had been established there by caring, loving people. I followed a simple path and suddenly found myself among some older trees, a real rarity in my experience in Arizona. I rather watched myself as I immediately walked to one large old tree. I wrapped my arms around it. I was just able to do that. I felt it with my whole body and tears very unexpectedly fell in little rivers down my cheeks. I was overwhelmed with emotion. I had no idea I was missing trees so very much. I poured my love and gratitude into that mature tree and took note.
I am now rerooted in Northern California and I have resumed a habit I began in previous times here. I have consciously identified those trees in this neighborhood that I regard as the Grandfather Trees. I’m well aware of them all the time when I’m out in my garden, even though none of them actually live on this property. Their strong presence is profoundly felt. The trunk of one of them is seen in the photo at the outset of this post. It is a very old very large bay tree, thus it is green all year long.
It is on the adjacent property, at the far back of my garden, just to the other side of the back fence. I am in complete awe of this tree. It has withstood the tests of time and I can only imagine what it has seen and weathered. If I were good at that sort of thing I would tell you how tall it is. I’m not. Let’s just say Very Tall. Its leaves rain into my garden all year long, a constant supply of bay if I’m inclined.
I wonder who is drawn to live inside there? Bigger question. I wonder what critters have lived in this tree over the course of its life? I cannot begin to imagine. How old is this tree? Any guesses?
The Grandfather Bay Tree lies west of my point of reference, and thus is my Tree to the West. Its base moves upward and about three feet up splits into three distinct huge trunks, creating, in essence, three distinct trees sharing a common starting point. Quite amazing. It is trees such as this beloved old bay that lend sanctity, presence, dignity and grounding to our neighborhoods. Without them we are adrift.
“Yes, grandfather trees…are the ones with the most to teach us. They are the ones that inspire awe, the ones we choose to pray under.” –Joan Maloof
When I’m not looking at the bay tree from my back garden, my eyes gravitate north to this old spreading oak tree, now in winter attire. Two white poplars live between me and My Oak Tree to the North, and seem to stand guard to it. Here it is in bathed in morning’s first light. I am blessed with this view as I run Conner and Ruby early in the morning.
You are seeing just the tippy top as that is precisely what I see each day! I have never seen its base trunk and may well never, as it is living in another back yard. I am content with what it shows of itself to me. It is enough. Here is a second photo of grandfather oak at dusk from the front yard.
Goodnight, Grandfather Oak.
Its grounding lies in this large trunk. Imagine wrapping your arms around it and thinking of all it has borne witness to.
Truly it is no wonder I chose to live here.
Rounding out the four directions is the Tree to the South, the black walnut tree, which lives on neighbor Dave’s front property. I am fond of this tree, as is the grey squirrel I found perched just along the graft line munching away at some delicious find.
Dearest Grandfather Trees, may we remember to cherish each of you, to recall the beauty and history you each lend to our modern lives. May we honor and protect you and ensure you are here for our children and grandchildren and theirs. Amen.
Posted on January 17th, 2009 by Kathryn
Filed under: Plants