Any fool can destroy trees. They cannot run away; and if they could, they would still be destroyed, chased and hunted down as long as fun or a dollar could be got out of their bark hides, branching horns, or magnificent bole backbones. Few that fell trees plant them; nor would planting avail much towards getting back anything like the noble primeval forests. During a man’s life only saplings can be grown, in the place of old trees – tens of centuries old – that have been destroyed.
Like many in my generation, I devoured J.R.R. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings with great relish. The metaphors, archetypes and stories from the rich world of Middle Earth continue to resonate through my mind many years after my last reading. One of my favorite creations is the sentient, intelligent, and wise race of Ents. These humanoid trees spoke too slowly and at a frequency too low for humans to perceive. They moved through the forest at a pace too slow to be perceptible.
Some years ago I hiked with a friend to a sacred Native American burial ground in the mountains of Northwest New Mexico. We sat in awe for what seemed like hours as we stared out over an incredible vista of trees and high desert vegetation. I pondered the Ents. What if the trees really were sentient? What if they actually moved of their own volition and communicated at levels beyond my grasp? When I verbalized these whimsical thoughts my friend responded with a simple question of her own: “Who says it isn’t true?” But she said it in such a way that I know she believed it. Ever since then I have been sort of believing it too.
I have had the rarified treat to stroll through the noble primeval forests of ancient redwoods in Northern California. As I stood amongst these ancient wonders, some whom had been living since before the time of Christ, I was dwarfed not only by their size but their sense of history and wisdom.
I am an INTJ. I have degrees in mathematics and physics. I am driven by objective thought and scientific principles, not emotions and mystical beliefs. And yet, I can’t help but wonder if John Muir and J.R.R. Tolkein were on to something in their reverence for trees.