Photographing the redwoods as individual trees, or as segments of a small or large forest, is a difficult task. The trees themselves are so vast. A vertical orientation or vertical panorama is basically what is necessary to even begin to capture the immensity and heritage of one single tree.
Fog in the forest helps create a more even light. If the sun is out you will have very dark shadows in some areas and hot highlights in others making the trees virtually impossible to photograph. The fog not only creates beautiful light, but also covers the branches and forest floor in moisture. The thick, course surfaces of the reddish bark begin to soften and feel like hair on a lion’s mane. (At least that is my guess.) For this reason alone, tree hugging is beautiful. But for political and environmental purposes it is also a powerful practice.
Etz Chaim, Hebrew for “tree of life,” is a common term used in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The expression, found in the Book of Proverbs, is figuratively applied to the Torah itself describing each of the wooden poles to which the parchment of a Sefer Torah is attached.
But also in Proverbs, the tree of life is Sophia, aka “wisdom.” “Wisdom is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her, and happy is everyone she embraces.”
The tree of life motif is present in many traditions. In Native American, especially among the Ojibway tribal cosmology, the tree is sometimes described as Grandmother Cedar who watches over us all. Disney’s Animal King/Queendom theme park features an artificial tree dubbed “The Tree of Life,” which includes 325 carvings of different species of animals.
Since the redwoods often grow in rings, in family circles around the area of the “Mother Tree,” they feel so “divine.” Standing among them is like being in an open cathedral!Tree of life, your roots grounded into the essence of your existence planted alongside the stream’s rapid flow. Your branches leaf into the cosmos. Embracing us with grace and peace, You give of yourself to satisfy the yearning in our souls. To all who hunger for you you blossom and fruit through season and eternity. Draw us into the fibers of your heart, that we may become lovers of the world that you enchant. Your steadfastness even into old age soothes and heals this planet. Music rustles from your tendrils’ tips entering our very being with promise. Praise to you, treasured tree of life! Your canopy is our life torah scrolling songs from the winds of justice. Blessed Be, Etz Chaim.
Poem and images © Stacy Boorn
These images were captured on the Fairfax-Bolinas Road.