“I am thankful that I am an oak, and that though I may be wind-broken or uprooted, hewn or sawn, at least I cannot, under any circumstances, be squashed.”
– from the short story “The Direction of the Road” by Ursula K. Le Guin
A month ago, despite political polarization and an isolating global pandemic, our community united in well-wishes for the McBaine Burr Oak, colloquially known as “Big Tree.” It was struck by lightning during a formidable morning thunderstorm and damaged to lengths only next springtime can reveal. Now seems an especially good time to meditate on its resilience and let ourselves feel awe in its presence.
An estimated 400 years old, Big Tree earned the state “champion” title this year as the largest of its species in Missouri and one of the biggest in the country. It, coupled with an impressive Sycamore just down the road, towers over low-lying farmland and has survived severe flooding, drought and lightning strikes of the past. A beloved stomping ground near the Katy Trail and a popular subject for artists, visiting this extraordinary landmark is a rite of passage for Mid-Missourians. Since the lightning strike, a copy of Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree” sits at its base for visitors to sign their names and join the community of other Big Tree pilgrims.
Old trees are as wise as they are magnetic. Below are some materials about the unique lessons and relationships that humans gain from the trees in their lives.
“The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature”
“How To Be More Tree: Essential Life Lessons for Perennial Happiness”
“In Search of the Canary Tree”
“The Long, Long Life of Trees”
“The Man Who Planted Trees”
“Nature’s Temples: The Complex World of Old-Growth Forests”
“The Secret Therapy of Trees”
“Witness Tree: Seasons of Change With A Century-old Oak“