Near impossible to convey the majesty of a mature Cedar of Lebanon. I’m standing in the field gazing up, body-dwarfed, mind-expanded.
This great tree, and his kin who dot the property were probably planted in the early 1800’s. Someone told me it was the fashion then to import exotic cedars from the mountains of Lebanon and Morocco to lend a noble allure to the landscape. 200 years on, we – and all our neighbors – are the beneficiaries. Their summits rise above the early morning mist of the Dordogne and evoke a Chinese silk drawing of the entire valley.
Every time I rest my eyes on these trees I’m filled with gratitude for the people who planted them. I wish I knew their names, I wish I knew what prompted them to such an act of generosity. Cedars of Lebanon grow so slowly there’s no chance you’ll ever see your plantling become an adult.
There used to be at least five great cedars in this park. One died before my time, but I do recall an unscrupulous tree surgeon a couple of decades ago who offered to fell a cedar that was showing its age. He carried off all but a mammoth, four-feet diameter section of trunk. We sadly placed it under an ancient magnolia where it became an idiosyncratic summer cocktail table.
There’s no getting around age, but the sight of that table taught me a couple of lessons. First, get a second opinion. After the ravages of gale force winds, a good tree man will at least attempt a prune-and-save operation before sentencing.
I learned something else when we lost that cedar. And its twin. And the old chestnut that toppled one quiet morning without warning. And some of the 200-year-old oaks on the ridge felled by hurricanes.
There’s no time like the present to plant trees for the next century. It’s the Winter Solstice today and we’re celebrating with our 4th Cedar of Lebanon. At this stage they’re small entities that even I can carry. It’s hard to conceive that one day they’ll be skyscrapers.
After a few days decorated for Christmas, we hurry the tree outside to lay down roots.
We chose planting sites for this one and two others that would create an alignment with their three majestic seniors. Already you can see the horizontal branching style.
I touched the two little branches forking at the top imagining the horizontal form they’ll take someday, imagined myself a bird perched on the summit with a view for miles…
I hope that when the senior Cedars pass away these young ones will be formed enough to mesmerize our valley with the characteristic tabular silhouette of the centurions.
As I contemplate my small 2013 specimen, it’s easy to get lost in the future. I’m sitting on a cedar bench in its shade on a hot summer day, enveloped in the perfume of pine and the sound of the breeze through heavy boughs. Then, a small encroachment of hurt – I’ll never see its full glory.
So I try to think about the good folk who planted the cedars we enjoy now. Their trust in the future. Perhaps they did it for their blood descendents. Or perhaps as they dug, they reckoned how the future is unpredictable. Sometimes blood descendents aren’t born. Sometimes properties change hands. When I enjoy the fruit of their vision I can only assume they had a deep sense of largesse; that they cast their confidence into the tunnel of time, planting glory sprigs for the love of people they would never know.