As we celebrate Memorial Day weekend, I would like to share the passing of a giant.
I speak not of a person or a warrior, or a political hero, but simply a giant of nature who’s life ended over this time of remberance.
On my property here in Moraga California, there has stood an ancient Bay Laurel tree for nearly three hundred years. It towered above all of the other oaks and bays at over a hundred feet tall, and was noted in the past by both Native Americans and the early settlers to the area. Most who have met the tree saw it as sacred.
The tree had a long varied past with many stories to tell, but in 1923 several cattle rustlers were caught in the area and they were hung from its largest vertical limb, which was over three feet in diameter at fifty feet out from its main trunk. That event became a part of local history and after that the tree was quietly refered to as the “Hanging Tree” when old timers got together to remember earlier times and when campfire tales were told of the ghosts of the murdered men who were said to haunt the site.
I once found part of a boot buried a foot or so below the surface while digging under the tree, and always wondered if it had anything to do with the hanging.
I also saw my first mountain lion at that tree, and there were signs that its huge branch served as a resting place for big cats. I live on the edge of the largest mountain lion preserve in America.
The tree was also credited by some as being the first Bay tree to have its leaves collected to start the California Bay Laurel industry. After that, California dominated the spice industry for many years for the best Bay.
For the last sixteen years, I have taught workshops on plants and herbs and spirituality on my property, and I have always begun every class with a trip to the giant tree and a retelling of its story. Hundreds of people have placed their hands upon its huge base and many came away feeling that the tree communicated to them or shared with them some deep wisdom. In fact, a number of people here on my Facebook have had that experience.
In any case, the giant has fallen as we all must. It’s stories will gradually dissipate into smoke as it’s wood brings warmth to our hearth and its leaves become the mulch for new life. This is the way of things! We all come and we all go, and we all hope that at least our story will remain.
So in honor of that, I share the tree’s story!
I would also share that while the ancient guardian is gone now, a single fragment of one shattered root still remains in the ground, and that there is the tiniest little sapling springing from it. It is only an inch tall and doesn’t even have a leaf, but in all of its fragility, I can both see and feel the spirit of the tree seeking immortality. Perhaps some things are eternal?
I feel a sadness for my fallen friend. We have had many conversations together as the first rays of dawn pierced through the forest, and I shared with her some of my most closely held secrets. We were friends!
The Laurel tree has been the symbol of victory since Ancient Greece, and in many cultures it is also seen as the the symbol of wisdom. I will take its long life of standing strong against all of the forces of nature as a sign that when we stand strong in support of our ideals we can prevail against seemingly impossible odds, and I will also take its final falling, as a sign that it is important to have a story worth telling before we are done so that what we stood for during our short time here lives on. For the greatest wisdom we can hold is the recognition that life is the sum of our experiences and the tree had many. At least in that one aspect, may we all be similarly blessed.
A giant has fallen. But it’s memory will long be remembered!
Peace & Blessings,