Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Bristlecone Pines

The bristlecone pine tree is the oldest known living thing on earth. The oldest one is in the White Mountains on the CA/NV border and is estimated to be over 4,700 years old. That would mean that it sent it's first shoot through the earth over 2,600 years before Christ was born. The bristlecones on Mount Evans in Colorado are young 'uns, and are thought to be slightly under 2,000 years old. These trees grow in inhospitable places, under savage weather conditions, and at significant distances each from the others. Their needles can stay about 30 years before they fall.

What odd rule of Nature is that? This Methusulah-like tree is not one that has been nurtured, cared for, watered regularly, fertilized,protected in all ways. It is the rugged, scrappy, twisted-limb artifact of stoicism.

There is nothing playful about this tree. One cannot imagine hanging swings from it, or sitting with a lover beneath it. These trees are rough, determined, square-jawed. If they were people they would wear boots. Simple and sensible boots. They would be frugal. Home before curfew. No between meal snacks. No one would accuse them of being jolly.

Yet they have an almost mystical beauty. There is something in a bristlecone's gnarled perseverence that is almost artful. There is a grace to survival that comes through. Is Nature playing with us or trying to teach us or both?

I wonder, as I drive down the mountain, whether on the coldest of nights, when all the people are gone, and the elk and mountain goats have found shelter at lower altitudes, if these ancient pines do not start chanting to themselves, in deep voices holding the secret rumbles of time.


Blogger Miss Eagle said...

You might also be interested in the Huon Pine - another ancient tree native to Tasmania. Wikipedia has a most interesting entry.

7:32 AM  

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