An ode to big trees (in pictures)

Over the weekend, my husband and I escaped the heat of California’s central valley and headed to the northwest part of the state. Among the many beautiful sights of the weekend, we visited several big tree state and national parks.

Our first stop was Avenue of the Giants, though technically, it was more of a “go,” as we drove among a blur of huge trees lining the road.

Today’s post is an ode to big trees, mostly in pictures, with a few words added in here and there. I hope you enjoy the virtual journey, but even more, I hope the pictures inspire you to visit this stunning part of the country—whether for the first time or a return trip.

Driving along Avenue of the Giants

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Biological gifts on the run

I heard a podcast yesterday featuring Rhonda Hampton, race director for the Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run. In it, she spoke of her love of trail running and the “biological gifts” she encounters along the trails. (To go straight to that section of her interview, fast forward to 47:15.)

Her comment made me think of my own daily wildlife count when I’m out running or walking with the dog. This week alone, my wildlife count or list of biological gifts includes a coyote, two deer, at least a dozen turkeys, countless songbirds, a hawk, and, just this morning, a pair of American White Pelicans.

American White Pelicans in a place I’ve never seen them (along with what I guess to be Double-crested Cormorants). One pelican is hiding behind the other.

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The family cemetery

Abraham breathed his last and died in a ripe old age, an old man and satisfied with life; and he was gathered to his people. —Genesis 25:8

Monday morning brought me to a veterans’ cemetery in South Florida. There, family and friends gathered to mourn and remember a man who, like Abraham, died “an old man and satisfied with life.” Those of us at the cemetery felt he left us too soon, but there was no denying he fully lived his life.

In one of the more peaceful moments of the morning, mourners stood near his headstone and spoke quietly of him, while some of the family wandered off to find the grave of his brother—buried in the same section of the cemetery nearly five years ago. The two brothers were close in age and closer in friendship growing up, and so it’s fitting that, in a way, they have both now been gathered to their people.

By the time the sun began to set, I was miles away, visiting some of my own people and standing in a quiet cemetery full of familiar names.

Sunlight filtering through Spanish moss gives the family cemetery an ethereal feel.

My cousin and I welcomed the shade of the trees as the hot day waned. We talked quietly at the graves, and she told me family stories I had never heard. She is fifth generation in this town; her husband is third generation. This cemetery is where so many of their (our) people are gathered.

“The young people don’t care to come here anymore.” I can’t remember if my cousin or her husband said this, but I know the truth of these words. I cannot imagine my nephews being anything other than politely bored if I brought them here.

As families scatter across the country more and more, this kind of gathering is lost. The family cemetery is not simply a gathering place for the dead, but also for the living to come to remember, to celebrate the old lives lived well and the young lives cut short, to tell family stories new and old. The family cemetery is a place to gather the threads of a family’s collective life and help us understand who we are in relation to the generations that have gone before us.

Do you have a family cemetery (or cemeteries) where you go to remember, to gather the stories of your people? While the place may stir up sorrow, does it also bring you peace?

The four redwoods

A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.
—Ecclesiastes 4:12

Four redwood trees grow in my yard: three in one corner, a fourth by itself in another. The three that grow together shelter each other, and each one receives shade from the others at some point during the sun-drenched day.

Three redwood sentinels stand guard at one corner of the yard.

Each summer, right about this time, I start to fret about the fourth one standing alone. Its needles brown, despite the drip hose, evening waterings, and prayers. Continue reading

Studying and fighting for champion trees

I spent last week in a place I love. I love running there like no other place, because running there means I get to enjoy shaded trails under towering trees, and stop to drink in sweeping vistas of mountain ranges covered in hardwoods and pines. I can run longer and breathe easier in this place of magnificent trees. (Well, maybe not physically breathe easier because of the elevation, but there’s an emotional breath that comes more easily to me when I’m there.)

So when I imagine a world without trees, my heart catches, and I think of this beloved mountain place. I cannot let myself imagine it without its crown of trees. You might wonder why I would even try to imagine a world without trees. Well, because a book I recently read, The Man Who Planted Trees by Jim Robbins, asked me to do just that. Continue reading