Wednesday Vignette – Ode to trees

This afternoon, after measuring a backyard, I noticed this deliciously old, gnarly tree down the street, silhouetted against the clear, blue sky. It has been there for much longer than I’ve been around. It has witnessed generations walk by, good times, bad times, war and peace. I imagine those wild, randomly twisting limbs somehow represent crossroads – moments of doubt, and disbelief – events so traumatic that they changed the direction of its growth.

Oak tree

Bark gets damaged, sometimes branches break in the assault of storms – little by little the tree deteriorates. Death by a thousand cuts. I always wonder what they’ve seen, what kind of historical events took place in front of them, where they’ve stood, locked in place for centuries.

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Branches fall, roots get eroded – yet the trees remain where they are – in the same place they have been their entire existence. The oldest oak where I grew up has a circumference of about 25′. It is many hundred years old. Many human lives are contained within the span of its lifetime, and I can’t help but think how our human lives are on such a drastically smaller scale than these giants. Yet, we are a little bit like them.

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Most of us start dying from within, long before the decay is visible on the outside. The trauma we suffer from our surroundings chip away at our souls and our bodies (as an extension of our souls) – one little piece at a time. Each hurtful event in the world around us, serve to weaken us. They say what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. I honestly don’t believe that. Do you?


Like trees, we can remain standing long after we are gutted. But, we are definitely not stronger. Winds of hate, intolerance, fear, and blame erode the core of our humanity, and breaks down our resistance. Compassion, acceptance, tolerance and love do the opposite.

About annamadeit

I was born and raised in Sweden, By now, I have lived almost as long in the United States. The path I’ve taken has been long and varied, and has given me a philosophical approach to life. I may joke that I’m a sybarite, but the truth is, I find joy and luxury in life’s simple things as well. My outlook on life has roots in a culture rich in history and tradition, and I care a great deal about environmental stewardship. Aesthetically, while drawn to the visually clean, functional practicality and sustainable solutions that are the hallmarks of modern Scandinavia, I also have a deep appreciation for the raw, the weathered, and the worn - materials that tell a story. To me, contrast, counterpoint, and diversity are what makes life interesting and engaging. Color has always informed everything I do. I’m a functional tetrachromat, and a hopeless plantoholic. I was originally trained as an architect working mostly on interiors, but soon ventured outside - into garden design. It’s that contrast thing again… An interior adrift from its exterior, is like a yin without a yang. My firm conviction that everything is connected gets me in trouble time and time again. The world is a big place, and full of marvelous distractions, and offers plentiful opportunities for inquiry and exploration. I started writing to quell my constant queries, explore my discoveries, and nurture my curiosity. The Creative Flux was started in 2010, and became a catch-all for all kinds of intersecting interests. The start of Flutter & Hum at the end of 2013 marks my descent into plant nerd revelry. I occasionally contribute to other blogs, but those two are my main ones. For sure, topics are all over the map, but then again - so am I! Welcome to my blogs!
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25 Responses to Wednesday Vignette – Ode to trees

  1. Tina says:

    It is awesome–in the original sense of the word–to realize and acknowledge the power and longevity of trees. Your photos complement the text beautifully. Tragedy, personal and communal, can strengthen, but I’d suggest one is, instead, changed and altered, much like a tree that has lost a major branch–standing, functioning, different.

  2. Peter/Outlaw says:

    Remarkable how survival is the prime goal of living things. Do our pets, with their lifespans relatively short compared to our own, look at us with the same awe as your ancient trees elicit in us? Do you know the song “I’m Still Here.” by Stephen Sondheim? Your post brought it to mind.

    My silly WV is here:

    • annamadeit says:

      I was wondering that too, Peter, and seeing such old trees always make me think of the Ents in Lord of the Rings. I have not heard that song, but will check it out. 🙂

  3. Kris P says:

    Hopefully, many of us will live to see the end of the current debacle. I can’t say whether the injuries life imposes make us stronger but I do think they can make us angrier, more defiant and, if we work at it, more focused. Here’s my Wednesday Vignetter:

  4. bergstromskan says:

    How lovely to be compared to a tree. They do so much good, cleaning the air, fertilizing the soil, feeding insekts and birds, sometimes us. Providing housing for un-countable critters and shelter in the storm. Beauty, inspiration and new energy. Developing new ways when the old ones do not work. Yes, life is sacred, and we can see it when we slow down, and maybe take a picture

  5. Alison says:

    I fear you may be right about how hurtful events weaken us. The saying about what doesn’t kill us making us stronger may be wishful thinking. You captured some lovely shots here of the trees and their broken and twisted limbs.

  6. Alison says:

    I almost wasn’t going to post a WV this week, but Peter’s fun post put me in a better mood. Here’s mine:

  7. christine maciel says:

    Good observations about old trees, and yes they are beautiful. I love them too. We have some Norwegian spruces that are at least 100′ high…hard to know their age but they’ve been here for over 40 yrs. And we had a Cottonwood – Populus deltoides tree in a neighboring town, Balmville, NY which tested as being from 1699 when taken down in 2015. Yes, I saw it in person, it too had a circumference of 25 ft.

  8. hb says:

    I wish I was that good looking at age 500! My oak in the front garden will be barely an adult at age 100.

    Mourning the end of spring today (It’s a California thing):

  9. Evan Bean says:

    I love gnarled old trees. I love being reminded that we are but a short existence compared to many things. Unfortunately, I know all too well that what doesn’t kill you does not always (or even often) make you stronger. I hope you find something to lift your spirits today.

    My WV post is here:

    • annamadeit says:

      Me too – it keeps my perspective limber… As it happened, I found many little things to lift my spirits today – most of them plants, but also several humans. It was a nice day! 🙂 (And it helped that I wasn’t in front of any device conveying political news, all day…)

  10. rusty duck says:

    There are days when I feel a lot like that tree. Beautifully written post Anna.

  11. hoehoegrow says:

    What stories these ancient trees could tell us. I have been intrigued by the old mulberry trees which still grow in the gardens of large old houses, probably planted in tudor times. They are wonderfully gnarled and must know some secrets …

  12. FlowerAlley says:

    You, my friend, are one of the best out there. Keep on being brilliant.

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