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Whispering Silences

Archive for the tag “tree”

A Platanus of history

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©MCD

There is a quote that says, “imagine if trees gave free WiFi; we’d all be planting like crazy. Too bad they only produce the oxygen we breathe”.

Trees are more important and vital for our lives than we believe or even give them credit for. They contribute to their environment by providing oxygen, improving air quality, climate amelioration, conserving water, preserving soil, and supporting wildlife. They produce the wood we use to light our fireplaces in the winter, make our furniture, even the paper we write on. Yet, we cut them down without second thoughts.

It is no wonder then, that when we come across a tree that is centuries old we treat it as a wonder of nature. We stand before it dumbfounded, gazing at this stupendous sight. And it makes you truly feel small and insignificant.

There is a place in North Evia, Greece, somewhere along that nature-blazing road that has you driving among trees, on your way towards the Kyreas River, in between the villages of Prokopi and Mantoudi. There is this place where a sign will direct you to the “Great Platanus”. A plane tree that residents will tell you has been there for centuries. It is “a tree of huge dimensions”, as the sign reads, a “monument of nature”. A Platanus Orientalis. It is 22-23 metres tall, with its trunk’s circumference reaching 18 metres, its trunk diameter at 5.5 metres, the surface of its stem at 900 square metres, and its shadow said to be once stretching over 2.5 acres. Its age is estimated at 500-600 years, although some say that it exceeds 2,300 years! It is said that this is the most ancient Platanus in the Balkans, perhaps even the whole of Europe.

20171028_133927Its tree trunks are larger than what can fit in your wide-open arms. It stands imposing before you and, even though lacking in foliage and somewhat deserted and with broken branches, the vastness of this tree is not diminished. Rather, it is a refreshing site in a world full of asbestos and tar. There is also a huge hollow in its trunk, big enough for 10 or more people standing. In it, you suddenly forget all the problems that trouble your head daily. You take a deep breath and simply be grateful for being alive. For being there. And for being able to witness this. Just think about all the changes this tree may have witnessed. It was there before you and will probably remain so even after you.

20171028_133932As with all over-aged creatures, there are myths and legends surrounding this tree. For example, it is said that if someone falls asleep in its hollow, they will fall ill or harm will come to them, as goblins will come out and cast a spell on them. In another legend, if you are found at midnight under the tree, you will hear voices, music, violins and clarinets, and see fairies and goblins appear dancing at the shores of the river. In yet another, it is said that at midnight two large rams come out of the platanus and start noisily fighting each other. This tree is often associated with fairies and goblins as it was believed that, being over-aged, it was also haunted.

No matter the stories, however, the reality remains that this, like so many others, is part of our natural heritage and should be protected and preserved. We devote so much of our time, energy and funds to things that matter less, yet we abandon those that benefit us more.

N.B. All photos are mine, taken in North Evia, Greece, on 28 October 2017.

 

Also part of Daily Prompt: Gratitude

 

A perennial embrace

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©Sandra Crook

The last time she had been there she had climbed up its branches and hidden among its leaves, hoping the world would pass her by. As a young girl, she would always seek refuge there. The huge tree seemed sturdy enough to offer her the security she lacked at home. She would run away and hide there; but she would soon be found and had to return.

Until the moment she simply ran away from the town itself.

Now, years later, that tree was the only fond memory she had of her childhood. The only thing that offered her comfort.

 

Also part of Friday Fictioneers

The tree that continued to burn

burning_tree___better_by_schorschi19There was once a tree in the middle of the forest. It wasn’t just any tree. It was tall and sturdy, with its branches extending over an entire perimeter. In bloom, it was the most beautiful tree in the forest, visible from miles away. From above, pilots flew around it in circles as it appeared like a lily in a pond of frogs.

The tree knew it was extraordinary and that it was admired for its exquisiteness. It took care of its body, assuring enough sunlight and water reached its stem and leaves. Yet soon, attention gave into narcissism. And the tree became so vain it repulsed the forest animals and bugs. No one wanted to be around it anymore because it had become so obsessed with itself. With its looks, with its bushy appearance, with its dominance in the forest. The other trees were overshadowed by this one, as it stood tall and swayed in the direction of the light, hungrily consuming the sun’s rays, while its deep roots lapped up the majority of the water in the soil.

Soon, the tree had ruthlessly devoured most of the nutrients and elements required for growth and the forest was starving. The other trees had become feeble and dried to the point that they were withering away.

The forest was resembling a patched blanket as the trees perished leaving behind gaps of rubble where they once stood. Yet the conceited tree remained firm in place, concentrating for itself as many nutrients still remained.

One day, a mocking jay flew above the forest with a sparkle on one of its legs. The tree looked up and smiled, jeering at the bird for its meagre appearance. At that moment, the bird dropped its sparkle right onto the tree.

It was a small piece of burning coal.

With water being scarce in the forest, the tree too was becoming severely dehydrated and it was not long before it caught on fire. Its abundant branches ablaze, the tree could do nothing other than watch itself burn. The fire had rapidly spread across the forest gulping up any remnant of a tree that it found in its way. Now all that remained was a towering tree in the middle of scorched land, glaring from the intensity of the flames.

The tree was too proud to call for help. So it kept burning.

For days, weeks, and months it burned. It combusted even when it thought there was nothing left to consume.

When it decided to curb its egotism and finally call for help, it was too late. It no longer had a voice with which to yell. And anyone who saw the great tree aflame in the once forest, thought it was too late to save it. So no action was ever taken.

The tree learned the hard way that some things should be more carefully considered. And it vowed that if given a second chance it would do things differently. It would use its strength to protect the forest instead of contributing to its demise.

When everything seemed lost, the mocking jay returned.

As soon as it flew over the tree, the flames were miraculously exterminated. And by the time the tree thanked its dear friend to whom it also apologized for being so inconsiderate before, a green shot bulged from the carbon-infested tree trunk.

The tree was given a rare second chance. And it was determined to live up to its vow this time.

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