They’ve called it “Methuselah” after the oldest person in the bible. But he only made it to 969. This tree is twice that age. The plaque pulls the number 1860 out of it’s arse, and the plaque looks to be fifty years old. I’m going with 2000. I just hung out next to a 2000 year old tree. It must’ve seen some things. Although mostly just nature happening.
For the first three quarters of its life it lived in comparative silence. Woodpeckers, birdsong, wind. Coyotes and wolves at night. Occasional lions and bears. Right at the top of a hill, deep in a forest, looking down on the huge woods, at it’s kin, many older and wiser trees in more accessible places. Perhaps the nomadic tribes hunted nearby from time to time. Maybe it provided a good viewpoint if climbed, being a huge tree in a high place.
It was there when the Romans came to Britain, this tree. It was there when they suddenly left. It weathered the Dark Ages that followed as people moved into the stone vacuum, and the abandoned infrastructure. It sat there in the wind and weather as Harald got one in the eye at Hastings and everybody started to pretend to be Norman. It was there through the crusades when we had coalesced enough of a united sense of identity that we could pit it that identity in opposition to another worldview. It was there when we fought ourselves at home and won and lost and won and lost. Henry VII hit the throne of England and it was still peacefully growing. Then after this millennium and a half of peacefully existing, the event that was going to lead to a very different existence took place. That Italian brute setting forth with three ships from Spain found a “new world”. Still, nothing would have really troubled this tree until a couple of hundred years ago, when thousands of clever monkeys swarmed into California.
How the hell do you even cut one of these things down? Once it’s down how do you load it onto the wagon? There would’ve been bigger trees than this in the area. Many of them. It would’ve felt impossible to have felled so many at the start, but people realised that the real gold was the wood, to make houses for the people who found the gold.
Pretty much all the ancient trees in this area are gaps on the forest floor, surrounded by younger trees. It is a tremendous endeavour to have managed, to have turned so many of these unfathomably ancient living organisms into houses. But when there’s money to be made…
They are tough trees, these redwoods. Their soft bark protects them from disease and fire. They shoot straight up into the air, so high, amazing vast organisms, living at a different pace from us, providing habitat, making the light beautiful.
We walked to a few but this one was the oldest and it was so old. The hippy in me was thrilled to find it.
Today has been a lovely end to this week in California. A good walk. Great company, and a fantastic tour guide in Lisa. Plus an incredibly old tree, now protected, that probably survived the logging in the 1800’s by being at the top of a hill.