Wit's End

Friday, October 17, 2014

Celestial Symphonies

I hear the wind among the trees  
Playing the celestial symphonies; 
I see the branches downward bent, 
Like keys of some great instrument. 
  ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
THOU WERT A BAUBLE ONCE, A CUP AND BALL
WHICH BABES MIGHT PLAY WITH;
AND THE THIEVISH JAY,
SEEKING HER FOOD, WITH EASE MIGHT HAVE PURLOINED
THE AUBURN NUT...
~ William Cowper, The Yardley oak, 1791
 click here for more images from Thomas Pakenham's book, Meetings with Remarkable Trees

Three centuries he grows, and three he stays, 
Supreme in state, and in three more decays. 
   ~ Dryden 

Three hundred years growing 
Three hundred years living 
Three hundred years dying. 
   ~ the life of an oak, according to an old saying

Similar harrowing scenes have been played out too many times, in too many places. This haunting version portrays the folly of man with heartbreaking poignance.  Thanks to facebook friend Got Grange for sending the link to this video of clearing for road construction, original shot in 1996, my way.

**this post is updated below the video

 

When I decided to post the video above I looked on the internet for a photograph of an oak and found this one, from the Ide Adobe State Historic Park in the Sacramento Valley of California.  I decided not to use it, since the video is about England, even though it is a magnificent specimen.  It's spectacular, actually, I love the way it looms over the building.  Of course generally I write about trees dying from absorbing air pollution - not logging - and since that picture was taken in 1996, I very much doubted that tree could still be in good health.  So I looked it up.

Surprise, surprise.  The entire crown simply collapsed this year - talk about a bizarre and sudden tipping point! Following are the excerpts from a local newspaper story dated July 13.  Notice how obviously rotted the wood has become.
At approximately 9:15 a.m., Sunday, July 13, the oak tree that shaded the adobe structure in the center of the historic area of the park lost a majority of its limbs, causing significant damage to the adobe and several of the other buildings in the park. 

It was fortunate that no one was injured during the incident. 

The 350 year-old oak tree has provided shade to visitors of the park for many generations and was around long before the adobe building was first built in the 1850's. 

The state made several efforts throughout the years in an attempt to keep the tree as part of the park's history. It included regular inspections, cabling of the limbs, and trimming as needed.  This morning, the tree faced catastrophic failure when it suddenly lost almost all of its branches

The first branch to fall landed on the roof of the adobe causing a portion of the structure to collapse. When other branches fell, they caused damage to the smokehouse, workshop and the pump house. 

Currently, park's staff are working on securing the site and removing the debris. 
Additional resources will need to be utilized to remove the branch still resting on top of the adobe building in order to minimize damage. 

It is unclear as to what caused the tree failure and what it will take to repair the damaged buildings. 

Park staff will reevaluate the situations and determine what it will take to make the buildings serviceable again. 

The historic section of the park will remain closed until further notice. 

[One of two comments on the story reads:]

Me think the Daily News Staff should run a series of articles about "never trust a Oak Tree". Had several that size in Fall River Mills that were rotten from the roots up into the branches...

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