I’m a fan of Penn State’s Heritage Trees & Groves program, which aims to conserve and sustain historic and remarkable parts of the campus landscape. This article caught my attention: Tree Experts From Japan Use Century-Old Technique to Save ‘Heritage’ Tree, specifically:
“[The Japanese consultants] had brought some of their traditional materials and tools and passed them around, and we were looking at things and talking,” says Kalp. “And they showed slides of cherry trees, which are particularly sacred, that have been preserved for a thousand to fifteen hundred years. It was crazy.”
I like the idea of coming to see certain trees as sacred parts of our environment. I think Old Willow can be that for Penn Staters. A tree can outlive its planter, and it can grow in meaning with each year and each life that appreciates its beauty.
The roots of the tree can be a symbol for the roots of the people that help conserve it for enjoyment today and tomorrow. I think our attitudes toward something as simple as a tree can sometimes serve as a proxy for larger attitudes.
What trees do in their own way is ask whether we see ourselves as part of a larger story. Whether we see just what’s in front of us, or whether we understand how time lets roots grow deep, limbs wide, and leaves green.
It’s not necessary to think of a particular tree as sacred, but on the flip side it’s a shame if you only think of a tree as decoration.