I love the amazing surprises of serendipity & synchronicity. I’d planned to write today about the ways the Old Oak I greet every day is gently teaching me. The age of the oak is important. Not technically “old growth, I suppose — not part of an old growth forest — but definitely an Elder, a survivor through all that life has thrown at it for who knows how many years — long living as a lone tree in a cow pasture …. withstanding construction that changed the shape of the land & now living on a steep slope at the edge of a small — but still blessedly wild — urban woodland. An Elder.
Certainly we need to learn from the teachings of our human Elders, who understand that humans are an integral part of nature — not something “separate” & “superior” as modern industrial/technological culture would have it. But to become aware of our embedded-ness, we humans also — and perhaps even more — desperately need to remember how to listen to & learn from our other-than-human Elders, wtih reverence and respect.
Then, this morning, as I was dutifully scanning the NY Times headlines, I encountered an exquisite photograph of ancient bristle cone pines introducing a fine essay entitled What The World Will Lose If Ancient Trees Die Out.
The author is Dr. Jared Farmer, a professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of “Elderflora: A Modern History of Ancient Trees.” I hope you can access & read the whole article. I especially love the way he speaks not only of the ancient trees’ importance to their ecosystems and the whole web of life but also of the immeasurable gifts they give us just by being:
“Ancient trees provide services too, but really, they are gift givers. Of all their gifts, the greatest are temporal and ethical. [emphasis added] They inspire long-term thinking and encourage us to be sapient. They engage our deepest faculties: to revere, analyze and meditate. If we can recognize how they call upon our ethical imperative to care for them, then we should slow down climate change now, and pay forward to people who will need a future planet with chronodiversity as well as biodiversity.”
Among plants, there are ephemerals, annuals, biennials, perennials — and beyond them all a category I call “perdurables.” Perdurance is resilience over time. Humans can recultivate this attribute by caring for old trees and the old-to-be. Sustaining long-term relationships with long-lived plants is a rejection of The End, an affirmation that there will be — must be — tomorrow. That is a gift.”
PRAYER ~~~ by David Abrams May a good vision catch me May a benevolent vision take hold of me, and move me May a deep and full vision come over me, and burst open around me May a luminous vision enfold me. May I awaken into the story that surrounds, May I awaken into the beautiful story. May the wondrous story find me; May the wildness that makes beauty arise between two lovers arise beautifully between my body and the body of this land, between my flesh and the flesh of this earth, here and now, on this day, May I taste something sacred.