so old, so alone

10.12.14 ~ Durham, North Carolina
dawn redwood ~ 10.12.14 ~ Sarah P. Duke Gardens, Durham, North Carolina

The tree was so old, and stood there so alone, that his childish heart had been filled with compassion; if no one else on the farm gave it a thought, he would at least do his best to, even though he suspected that his child’s words and child’s deeds didn’t make much difference. It had stood there before he was born, and would be standing there after he was dead, but perhaps, even so, it was pleased that he stroked its bark every time he passed, and sometimes, when he was sure he wasn’t observed, even pressed his cheek against it.
~ Karl Ove Knausgård
(A Time for Everything)

Fossils show that Dawn Redwood (Metasequoin glyptostroboides) was a dominant coniferous tree in much of the Northern hemisphere from about 90 to 15 million years ago. In 1941 a few living trees were surprisingly discovered in a remote part of western China. Seeds collected from them were germinated at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University in 1948. The next year this tree, one of the original seedlings, was planted here in Durham, North Carolina at the Sarah P. Duke Gardens at Duke University.

6 thoughts on “so old, so alone”

  1. It’s amazing to know that this trees ancestors were around so long ago. The exposed roots and gnarled bark suggest a well weathered tree, much like the wrinkled face of an older person, who has earned their “character” from a life well lived.

    1. I found the history of this tree compelling. It must have been roped off for some reason, which made me all the more curious. No other trees in the gardens were offered that boundary. But I wished to touch it, to connect with it in some way.

  2. Think about the Giant Redwoods in California. We spent a day among them the last time we were there. The most amazing thing was the total silence. Because of their height all the birds and other tree dwellers were far above us. They shut out the world for a few hours of total peace and contentment. I love your blogs!

    1. Thanks, Tiny! I loved that the little boy in the book felt compassion for a tree – I was the same way as a child and had a favorite tree, too.

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