Trees connect us to a distant past. They stand rooted in place, watching the world go by.
Recently on a hike in Ponga Biosphere Reserve, Spain, I came upon this oak. Towering 30m tall with a thick trunk, the tree could easily be more than 500 years old. At this size it dwarfs the surrounding forest of birch, beech, hazel and oak: all young by comparison.
That great oak was once an acorn. Buried by a jay, or a darting squirrel. Back then, the world looked different. It sounded different. Each dawn chorus a cacophony unimaginable. Herds of deer and boar moving through the trees – stalked silently by packs of wolves.
Yet this oak witnessed a transformation. As a sapling it grew in the shadow of giants. But when the oak gained mass – turning sunlight into solid wood – the forest started to dwindle. Neighbours connected through an underground network began to disappear. Trees cut down by people possessed with a greed needing timber and wood fuel.
Maybe the oak stood even alone at one point – stuck on a bare mountainside bound for nowhere.
Now the oak towers above a young forest. Wizened bark knarly and covered by lichen. And an old canopy left breezy above the regeneration below.
Imagine what a forest full of these oaks must have been like. Imagine walking among such beings. The stillness, the depth, the sounds, the tranquility. Imagine what could have been.
We will not experience a forest of such giants. But we can work to ensure that future generations do. Because trees growing today connect us with a world we hope for. A future of thriving communities – human and non-human – and of abundant, self-generating, self-perpetuating natural wealth.
Let the trees of today grow tall with wizened bark. Let them become the Ancient Forests of the Future. And let those ancient forests witness what a regenerative movement makes possible.