Sunday, June 21, 2009

Trees that Reach Across Time

Picking up on the previous topic, interactions with trees form an important part of many peoples’ childhood memories, and they also tie into family stories—so I’m always interested to hear about my friends’ and families’ connection with trees. Because of their relatively longer life-spans, trees are witness to history, so they enable us to experience connections across time. As a genealogist, it would help me feel a greater connection to my roots if it were possible for me to visit trees that individual ancestors had been fond of. Many of the trees I have planted on my 2-1/2 acres come from family properties, the offspring of trees that had been planted by my father or grandfather, and I always appreciate those connections.

Trees can also enhance our connection with historical figures. We know that the story about Washington cutting down the cherry tree is phony, but he may well have climbed some trees as a kid. Maybe that’s a bit too long ago for those trees to still be around, but knowing that “George Washington climbed here” would interest me more than “George Washington slept here.” I believe I’ve heard about certain communities having honored trees that came from seedlings of trees that Jefferson planted at Monticello. When my Texas son was visiting a few years back, we stopped by the spot “Under the Oaks” in Jackson, Michigan, where the first Republican convention took place in 1854, and I joked whether he’d like some Republican acorns to take back to Texas for George Bush.

Getting back to my campus walks, MSU, like any such institution, has had a number of notable graduates as well as illustrious visitors, so it would be interesting to know if some of them had clasped specific trees, or patted certain sculptures, or leaned out of certain windows, or relaxed on a certain bench or patch of ground, or what have you. On passing that same spot, it would enable us to have that imaginative encounter across time.

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