Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Contemplation on Sequoia Sempervirens

My house was built in 1951, the year I was born.

Its framing and siding was milled from mature Sequoia sempervirens, Coast Redwoods.

These vererable trees are remarkable life forms.  The few ancient trees still living grow almost 400 feet tall with trunks over 25 feet in diameter. They are living wonders of the ancient world.

When the loggers came to the forest to take the lumber in my house, those trees were almost surely more than 2,000 years old. I don't think anyone cared to ask.

To “harvest” such noble beings to build modest homes like mine is, now, difficult for me to comprehend. Would we dismantle down the Statue of Liberty to “harvest” her copper sheath to make pennies?

I feel, sometimes, like I’m living in a crime scene, the crime being ignorance, greed, and delusion. I am a member of a society that cannot reliably see what is wrong with killing whales for pet food or redwoods for fence posts and railroad ties.

I’m doing my time on the meditation cushion. My next house will be made of mud.

And now, an “Hourglass Etheree” poem:

Rafter Creaks:

Here. Now. I get the holiness of trees
their bodies, in death, sheltering me
in my wood-framed, wood sided house
I hear the trees talk—faintly though
redwood whispers, soft, low.
At silent meeting
sitting with friends
night descends
rafter
creaks,
“We
trees give
endlessly
our ancient trade
taking earth, light, rain
to make oxygen, shade
blossoms, tea leaves, nut meats, fruits
wood for guitars, violins, flutes
cribs, cradles, tables, chairs, caskets, pews,
trunkfuls of foodstuffs for fungi to chew.”

by Dan Gurney

13 comments:

Shaista (Lupus in Flight) said...

Dan! Such a glorious glorious poem - oh it is utterly perfect, and when you recite her hourglass perfection to the listening trees and the wind, will they not rejoice? Will they not think the long years have been worth their wait? Worth their weight in long years of ancient trade...

Reya Mellicker said...

Redwoods are truly magical beings, ancient, wise and incredible. When they fall, then it would make sense to me to build hot tubs and decks and houses from them. But to cut them down? It's murder.

Dan Gurney said...

Thank you Shaista. I shall follow your suggestion and read this poem to some redwoods. I think they'd appreciate it. Goodness, I know they would appreciate a little appreciation for all they do!

Dan Gurney said...

Reya murder is a strong word and I think in a better world it would apply to venerable Redwoods, oh, yes, I do.

From what I understand about Redwood ecology, they require the nutrients bound up in their ancestors bodies to decompose and enrich the soil.

So, no, I'm afraid we can't cart off their dead for our uses. Future generations of Redwoods need to put their roots into soil enriched by their elders.

Delwyn said...

Hi dan

do you think we have been trees in another life that we are so besotted by them?

Happy days

Dan Gurney said...

Hi, Delwyn. Perhaps we're trees, also, in this life. I'm a tree transformed into animal life. But I began as a tree. We'd last less than 10 minutes without the oxygen they've made. Our bodies are built out of food they've made, and they've kept many a raindrop from falling on our heads!

I think it's likely trees are a higher form of life than we humans suspect--many realms higher than us. Perhaps we'll be reborn as trees and experience the sublime happiness unimaginable to humans.

Catherine said...

I watched Avatar last evening, and this morning your poem greeted me. Amen, and thank you.

steven said...

dan i've only seen still and film footage of redwoods. one day i wish to visit washington and oregon and see them as well as so much more. without advocating the taking of life, i wonder if the tree could be considered to be giving its life to allow those of the people and animals who call your home "home" to exist? in this way the tree offers itself as a gift to the fuller spectrum of life. you and share a similar sense of trees as venerable and wise beings. steven

Dan Gurney said...

Hi, steven. You'll have to travel further south, as this species doesn't grow in Washington or Oregon. (Maybe a grove or two in Oregon, but I think not.)

The experience of walking among beings who have lived for over 2,000 years is indescribable.

I can assure you that they are no more eager to be harvested than a whale, or you or I.

Alive, they make homes for birds and animals of the forest, and a very quiet, serene one at that. Full of contemplation.

I feel extraordinarily honored to visit these cathedrals of life regularly. Come, stay with me here. We can walk among the giants. I know you'll know what I'm talking about.

The Pollinatrix said...

Now that I've spent some time with the redwoods, I think I'll always feel homesick for them. What amazes me is that simply by calling them to mind, I can immerse myself in their presence and feel a sense of calm wash over me.

I love your poem!

Dan Gurney said...

Hi, Polli—

The Redwoods have an amazing presence for me. And yes, it's some deeper calmness, patience, and generosity. That feeling takes over when I'm with mature Redwoods.

Lori ann said...

Dan,
i've enjoyed this post so much, the poem and your comments. I agree with everything you say, trees are living beings and there is no doubt that the older they are, just like humans (many), the wiser they are too. I've been among some of the oldest trees on earth, from the redwoods to baobabs, and it is indeed a spiritual experiance.

Dan Gurney said...

Hi Lori ann. Thank you for your comments. Your blog posts are full of the kind of understanding about trees and the natural world that I'm getting at here. I already was pretty sure that the trees "speak" to you, too. They have so much to tell us. Thanks for all you do to help others listen.