The Sentinel Pine’s Gift

After “the storm”, a sentinel pine stretched itself across the Tri-Town trail at Smart’s Brook. The pine died many years ago but remained standing long after its heartwood had disintegrated, opening up homes for many forest beings in the nooks and crannies of its huge interior space.

Peering inside, I was drawn to what looked like a classic shoulder muscle, the deltoid, beautifully sculpted. Branches were missing but a tennis ball sized opening adjacent to it in the trunk framed small ferns below and I was blown away by the thought that tree branches also have shoulders.

Shoulders help us to swing our arms for balance, to raise a hand in greeting, to hug loved ones,  to carry our grocery bags, push and lift snow shovels, reach down to secure shoes, boots, that keep us grounded.

I admit to not having considered that trees have similar needs for branches that help them stand upright, balancing snow, ice, wind and leaves. Branches resilient enough to accommodate squirrel, possum, bear, bobcats and the whole woodland community.

I wondered how many birds had flown in through the hole left by the branch, nested there to hatch their young, found bugs to tide them over, prelude to a successful fledge.

Lying across the trail, the tree invites exploration, a generous offering even in death, separated from its roots which lie in wait for a new seedling to support.

Tree seems to leave a message that life goes on; life is tenuous but sustainable. To be healthy, our task is to be present, enjoy all beings on the planet (plant, animal or otherwise). In this extraordinary world that seems on the brink of becoming a caring world, people the world over are called to share with others, help with survival, keep each other well and give thanks.

 

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