For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves.
And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons.
Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk:
in the rings of its years,
all the struggle,
all the suffering,
all the sickness,
all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written,
the narrow years and the luxurious years,
the attacks withstood,
the storms endured.
And every young farmboy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow.
Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is.
That is home. That is happiness.
~ Hermann Hesse, Bäume. Betrachtungen und Gedichte
Solitary trees, if they grow at all, grow strong.
A wind has blown the rain away
and blown the sky away
and all the leaves away,
and the trees stand.
I think, I too, have known autumn too long.
Trees are Earth’s endless effort to speak to the listening heaven.
Why are there trees I never walk under but large and melodious thoughts descend upon me?
I don’t know why, of all the trees that peppered this hill over a century ago, this one was spared. Perhaps she was the tallest at the time, or the straightest, or just didn’t yield to the ax as the others did.
She has become the sentinel on our farm, a focal point:
the marker by which all else is measured.
She is unchanging as the backdrop of clouds and seasons, color and light shift and swirl.
Visitors climb the hill to her first before seeing anything else on the farm, to see the expanse that she surveys. Her branches oversee gatherings of early Easter morning worship, summer evening church services, winter sledding parties, and Fourth of July celebrations.
This one special tree stands alone, apart from the others, but is never lonely – not really. She shares her top with the eagles and hawks, her shadow with humans and other critters in her century-long vigil with people all around the globe in these photos.
Never lonely — no, never.
This is her home. This is happiness.