Saturday, April 26, 2014

A tree story. Part One.

When I was a wee Jade, my dad nailed three small, wooden boards to our big tree in the front yard. He did this so that his short legged daughter could scramble up the side of the tree up, up, up to the waiting branches. Whenever I would reach that safe spot where I could sit with my legs dangling, I would look all about me as far as my sight would reach and imagine in earnest a new adventure for myself. Hidden notes and small figurines lived in the knots and divets of the branches. It was my magic place, and I was it's queen.

It's been twenty years since I climbed it, for we moved not long after I reached the age in which little girls quit climbing trees. As a teenager, I would simply spread a blanket underneath a tree and rest against it's warmth. As a grown woman (yes, I still find myself shocked that I have reached adulthood), when I pass a tree, every fiber within me screams "Climb it! You must climb it!" Gratefully I live in a place where good, sturdy climbing trees are in abundance and my little boys beckon me with their small hands and big smiles into the eaves of their own imaginary kingdoms. And I am still the queen.

Last year, a friend of mine sent me a picture of a tree. He texted the image to me, teasing me about the picture I had just bragged about of our own "Big Tree" here in the coastal bend. Our "Big Tree" is on Goose Island near Rockport and has been there for about a thousand years. During the Civil War, the town of Lamar (Goose Island) was bombarded and destroyed by the union navy. All that remained were the ruins of a few old shellcrete homes, a Catholic chapel, and the Big Tree. The Big Tree possesses a circumference of over 35 feet, is more than 45 feet tall and has a crown spread of 90 feet. And I love it. I picture it standing alone amidst the ruin of the war, sad, worn, but still alive. Devastation all around it, and yet it lives. I imagine the tree standing firm against hurricanes and droughts and the world growing around it. And yet it continues to breathe, tall and beautiful. (This is where I discovered my business name "Journey Tree Studio" and where the name of this blog comes from. Trees tell good stories.)

A picture I snapped one sunny day at Goose Island. The Big Tree

So my friend saw my picture of my tree and laughed, then sent me a picture of the tree he knew would make me swoon. The Angel Oak on John's Island in South Carolina. 

The Angel Oak Tree is variously estimated to be at least 400 and as much as 1400-1500 years old, stands 66.5 ft tall, measures 28 ft in circumference, and produces shade that covers 17,200 square feet. From tip to tip, it's longest branch distance is 187 ft.

The picture my friend texted me of the Angel Oak
When I saw the text, I nearly fell out of my chair. Something inside me woke up and I knew that I needed to see it. I didn't know how, but I simply had to see this tree. (insert dramatic music here). The simple fact that you can walk around this tree, touch it, sit beneath it was absolutely surprising to me. The Big Tree on Goose Island is behind a protective fence, and I would never break the rules and jump it. Ha! And the fence is so ugly too. I wish it were a quaint picket fence with ivy growing on it, or something of the sort. But no, it's an ugly chain link fence. (picture eye roll here). The fun coincidence is that months before my friend texted me, I had found a picture of The Angel Oak online when I was reading up on The Live Oak Society. I had counted it as my favorite in the trees that I had read about, but it didn't compute that it was still a living tree that was up for visitors. I showed the text to Nate and gasped something unintelligible and squeaked that I needed to go there. He snorted and smiled his usual patient smile that he reserves for me and said "Sure, Jade. We will go see that tree." And of course it's 1500 miles from my house. Of course it is.

Fast forward to about a month ago when Nate and I were realizing that the busy season of Summer would be upon us and we needed to have a no-child adventure before our lives became overrun with Zephyr craziness. We talked about things we could do and I batted my eyelashes at him and asked with all the sweetness that I could muster, "How about a trip to see the Angel Oak?" After a bit of bantering and teasing, my sweet demeanor turned to wheedling and whining and the cute husband finally gave in. (Enter happy Jade jumping up and down.) He agreed and we settled on a date knowing we were dirt broke and had no idea where we would stay or what the drive would be like. I'm so glad I married a man who was perfectly fine with driving across the country for a tree. 

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