Saturday

Naming the Tree


As a child I roamed the woods with my cousins all day on all sunny days.  We had a great variety of places to visit on our rambling jaunts.  There was a spring that was a regular stop, especially on hot days.  The magic of water bubbling out of the ground had the power to thrill me to my very bone, and still does.

How cool the air surrounding the spring and how interesting the colony of water creatures who made the spring their home, especially the orange-with-red-spots salamander. When I later read of the sacred groves of ancient Greece I felt I knew them.  I thought I knew what they would have looked like and how it felt to be in them.  I understood why they were thought to be sacred.  In my child's mind the springs were the gems of the forest.  The crowning jewels of the sacred grove.

And the trees, there were special trees to be visited.  One in particular so much so that we named it The Grandfather Tree.  This tree was an enormous pine, probably sixty feet in height if not more. We climbed through the spoked branches to the very top where it would sway above the others in the forest and make me glad for the sticky resin that seemed to hold me a bit more firmly.  Scary business, climbing that tree.

How we loved it.  We would dance around the tree.  And sing to the tree. The tree was King of the Forest and we did our best to honor it.  We protected it by creating traps for would-be trespassers.  On all approaching paths to the tree we dug holes then covered them with sticks and leaves.  Lessons learned from watching Tarzan movies, I'm sure.  How effective our traps were I'll never know as I never heard of anyone falling into them, and am glad now that they did not.  But then it seemed protection was naturally part of our responsibility to The Grandfather Tree.

I've since talked to other people who named trees as children.  My friend Elisha and her sisters had Big Bertha. I've heard of a sycamore named Sam.  There are famous trees like the Angel Oak down in South Carolina. The Wye Oak of Maryland.  A tree in Africa over a thousand years old is called Wonderboom.  What a great name, the Wonderboom.  I understand it to be a fig tree.  Can you image eating a fig from a tree that old?  How many figs over all that time has the tree produced?  How many birds, monkeys, gazelles and people have enjoyed its sweet seedy fruit?

And it was a fig tree, the great bodhi, under which Buddha sat when he became enlightened.

Children...what do they know?