Thursday, October 16, 2008
IN MY OPINION (Column)
Redwood Trees Versus Hardscrabble Pines: A Tale of Two Trees
By TED RUHIG
Many times, Californians don’t realize how fortunate they are to live in California, particularly in the northern part of the state.
The North is the land of giant redwoods. These trees are massive, averaging 200 feet tall, and some are over 500 years old. These trees are found not only in Northern California, but in southern Oregon. Redwood country is a glorious land to visit.
I came to admire this area while attending the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, where every year some dozen of the Bard’s plays are produced. What a combination - the land of the redwoods embroidered by the magic of Shakespeare’s poetry. The cares of the world were shed under the shade of these redwood giants.
As one traveler observed: “The trees are so towering that it strains your neck to peer up to their tops.”
And if you sit among them, listening to the breezes blowing through the giant tree limbs, you are further struck by the mammoth size of these trees. Travelers can become truly mesmerized, almost hypnotized by the giant trees which have already stood for a millennium or two and probably will keep on living for a thousand years or more - long after our generations have shuffled off the earth.
While the cares of the day can easily be forgotten under the canopy of these trees, being aware of my individual mentality, I adopted another tree with which to identify. I call myself “Bristlecone” Ted.
The bristlecone pine is another California tree. It is an evergreen tree that grows in high altitudes in the western U.S. The trees are found in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.
Some bristlecone pines are more than 4000 years old. The oldest known living tree is a pine in the White Mountains of eastern California. The tree, named Methuselah, is more than 4,660 years old. That signifies successful aging to me, so I adopted that pine as a symbol of my many years - 91 to be exact.
Bristlecone pines grow as tall as 70 feet. Others are merely twisted shrubs. The name bristlecone comes from the prickles on the tree’s pine cones. Bristlecones live an extremely long time, mostly because they grow slowly and live in cool, dry areas that have few harmful insects and diseases.
A bristlecone pine can survive even if all but a few of its branches and roots die. In addition, bristlecone pine needles remain on the tree from 15 to 30 years. The long life of the needles enables the tree to survive many successive years of drought or extreme cold, when few new needles can grow.
Yes, that’s my nickname - Bristlecone Ted. I couldn’t very well name myself Redwood Ted. There is nothing stately about my posture these days. But the hardscrabble bristlecone seems just about right. So bristlecone I am. And being human, I’ll shuffle out one day, hopefully not worrying along the way about the headaches and heartaches affecting many of the elderly. I’m no longer hoping to be a giant redwood (ha, ha, ha) but just a bristlecone, never giving up.
©2008, Capitol News ServiceCopyright 2008, Metropolitan News Company