TREES, in ancient times, were considered sacred—-nature’s ladder to the heavens and pathways to the under world. Revered as a sign of and access to the divine, they stood as guardians at the threshold of connecting worlds. Today they are creators of cooling shade, a respite from the heat. They are producers of fruit, delicious sweetness of the summer’s harvest and makers of oxygen as they quietly filter our polluted air. In this scientific age trees are no longer called holy, but essential. Vital they are to our lives and our economy. Farmers walking through their orchards of flowering trees might consider this an encounter with the transcendent, but for most of us trees are among a world of forgotten archetypes.
Here in this valley of abundance the farmer’s dream becomes a struggle. Our food and this land have become tied to a global economy that is driven by profit. This market is mostly blind to concerns of quality, safety, or sustainable farming practices.
There is a scene familiar to residents of this Eden, an apocalyptic scene—-huge mounds of bulldozed trees stand in fields where once an orchard grew. I saw my first mounds several years ago. I stopped my car and got out to walk among these giants. The brutally broken bodies of these trees was everywhere and the evidence of the violence it took to create this scene were fresh. In the twilight these monoliths mirrored the grandeur and power of the distant Sierras. Feelings of sadness and horror mixed with awe at nature’s continuous beauty. I savored this encounter with the sublime, but this is a terrible beauty.