From my earliest memory, the tree has always been there. Along the road home. Though there are trees, trees, trees everywhere, this one has always stood out. Winter and summer, covered with snow or enduring yet another parching summer drought, the tree watches by the road, an ever welcome sign that I am nearing home.
The tree stands out because, among the hordes of red cedars growing up around its feet, it is a pine.
The county once had great stands of pine–until the lumbermen arrived. The tallest and best were in high demand as ships’ masts for the royal navy. We still have a Royal Road which was once the trail along which the massive pines were hauled to the water’s edge, destined to help sail ponderous vessels into battle.
So pines, once abundant, are now a rarity in my neighbourhood. This is the only one I’ve noticed in the wild by my road.
Our pine is not particularly large though it must be at least hundred years old. Clutching for life in our thin, shaley soil does not make for towering growth. However, it is tall enough to stand above its neighbours and is immediately noticeable because of its bent top and its lean from withstanding our vigorous westerly winds. Instead of growing straight, it swoops sideways probably from some accident as a sapling it carries to the end of its days. How the twig is bent, as they say.
As I child, I watched for it out the window of our old Ford truck. Back then, it stood in what was known as Roy’s pasture where Roy’s cattle spent their summers grazing. The land has been sold long since and now the red cedars are gobbling up all the open spaces where the Herefords used to roam.
Nevertheless, the pine still stands above them, serene in its field, witness to model T’s and SUVs, wartime bombing practice, generations of cows and calves dozing in its shade, packs of spandex clad modern cyclists, and all our local regulars going to and from their work each day.
I used to think it was just me who thought of this tree as an old friend. But probably not. I’d love to know how many others also believe they are the only ones who give this special sentinel a wave and a nod as they go by. Here’s hoping it lasts another hundred years. Long may the chain saw stay away.