The Great Black Oak Elders

Last winter a major branch on a large, very old black oak tree came down in a storm. This summer Four more heritage black oak trees have come down or lost a major branch, one barely a week ago. Concerned for safety, we had a Grandmother Oak taken down beside the garage.

That made Five.

I counted her rings. She was over 320 years old. She was born not long after the Pilgrims landed here on Turtle Island. She watched the native Maidu people come each season to collect the black oak acorns, to hunt and trap, to net salmon, to gather the gooseberries and hazelnuts and more.

Yesterday we visited a nearby hillside that was once a native Maidu village site. We asked our Tsi Akim guide Grayson about these oaks. A tracker, botanist and landscape designer, he suggested that these trees may all have experienced something at the same time, perhaps a fire (we know one came through here in 1910 or 1911). They may have shared experiences or tendencies that could lead to their all collapsing now.

He suggested they may be experiencing conditions now that could push them towards dropping. The eight days of fierce winter north winds may have dried them beyond their tolerance. Then in spring we had the plentiful rains after shoots had begun, causing especially lush green growth — perhaps extending branches and leaves weighing more than the trees could hold up.

Incredibly, we came home to learn that yet another huge oak had come down. Perhaps at the very moment we were talking with Grayson.

090802_sixthoakdown_400.jpgNumber Six.
It is like so many in the same generation who have journeyed together are now leaving, leaving all at the same time.

Behind them are other Elders and young ones to carry on. But oh, I grieve to lose these beautiful presences, solid and knowing, in Lone Bobcat Woods.

“The forest never changes,” Robyn noted, “and it is always changing.” Like all of Life.

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