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Big trees and dreams.

BIG TREES AND DREAMS

What's the big deal about Big Trees? Why are people turned on by such arboreal "winners"? Why has this century-old conservation organization chosen to spend so much time and energy on a program to recognize big old trees? Many of the champions are downright unattractive - misshapen or cabled together or gnarled with age. Others are big in title only, belonging to diminutive species and looking like relics from the land of Lilliput.

Is it that we are a nation of people enamored of winners, or awed by bigness? Probably. But I believe there's a great deal more to the near reverence most of us - most AFAers, at least - hold toward big trees.

Take a close look at the photograh on page 3 of this special publication. Looming out of the rich Oregon earth is the largest known Sitka spruce on this continent. From its moss-bejeweled buttress to its broad, sinuous bole to its life-giving crown, this regal old tree symbolizes strength and serenity and permanence. And to those who will listen, it speaks eloquently about some other things.

I stood at the base of this tree some years ago. One of my first reactions was to recall another big tree 3,500 miles and 35 years away, but conjured up vividly. It was an aged oak with an enormous trunk (I'm sure it wouldn't seem so big to me today), and my boyhood friends and I rested and hid and conspired in its shadow and shade. And because that old tree made me feel protected and at ease, I did a lot of dreaming there amid the smells of crushed acorns and sweat-on-bark and decayed leaves and the wonderful odor of earth.

Though I couldn't possibly have articulated it then, I felt a kinship with that dark earth, and with sweet water and growing things. The oak helped to give me a sense of the ongoing order of our natural world, and man's place in it. It was only much later that I learned the details of that order - the message that humankind's survival depends on how we use our dwindling natural resources, and the hard choices that often must be made in deciding how much to use and how much to keep in trust for those who come after us.

Today I worry about our society's ability to make those choices wisely, mainly because I sense that we are losing our close contact with our earth and its natural processes. But whenever such thoughts intrude, I need only look at the photo of that huge spruce or recall the old oak of my childhood. These monuments to natural order serve as measuring sticks for our own survival. As long as we can see such trees linking sky and earth, as long as they provide quiet places for the young to dream and the not-so-young to remember old dreams and build new ones, we humans too will be able both to stay rooted in the earth and to reach for the sky.
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Title Annotation:National Registry of Big Trees
Author:Rooney, Bill
Publication:American Forests
Date:Jan 1, 1990
Words:506
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