A Pilgrimage to Ancient Tree Wisdom

By Linda Wiggen Kraft,
Healthy Planet Green & Growing Editor

The wisdom of long-life experience is not limited to humans. There is wisdom to be shared by the long lives of ancient trees that have made their homes on the soil of what is now called North America. There are living trees that are over 4,000-5,000 years old on this continent. 

Author Anthony D. Fredericks went on a pilgrimage to ten sites in California, Nevada, Utah and North Carolina to visit ancient living trees and their environments. His journey, wide-ranging thoughts and information come to life in his book In Search of the Old Ones, an Odyssey among Ancient Trees. Fredericks travels on remote and mostly mysterious hiking trails to visit each tree, although one journey was via kayak.

The book weaves together stories of people’s lives at the time the seeds of these trees found a hospitable piece of soil and moisture to sprout and take root. Imagine a family of Mesopotamian potters whose lives centered around their pottery, goats and vegetable gardens while almost 8,000 miles away a small seed began life as a now living 4,000+ year old Great Basin bristlecone pine in the White Mountains of California. Along with stories about life at the time these trees took root, there is vast information about what scientists know about these trees, how cores are taken to determine exact age and mention of other writings about these ancient lives.

There are no glossy photographs, instead lovely black, white and gray illustrations of the featured trees and land. Phyllis Disher Fredericks and Rebecca Noelle Purvis are the illustrators. Their drawings give the book a nature journal feel that makes for a more personal and intimate communication between the tree, artist and reader. A photograph takes but a mere second to shoot. A drawing catches a more intimate exchange as it takes more time to really see and know.

This book reads as a pilgrimage and meets that definition according to the Cambridge dictionary which states: “Pilgrimage incorporates three main elements: travel and movement; veneration in some form; and a special place or places considered to have some deep significance, often associated with sacred figures or founders.” Fredericks traveled on very remote trails where the trees described were sometimes unmarked to help preserve them. He moved through wet and dry environs. His veneration of these ancient trees is profound and shared in his writing. Many would agree these trees are sacred and part of life for many generations of Native Americans way before the founders of our young country ever set foot here. We can consider these trees founders and carriers of wisdom of the land they inhabit.

Take a journey, or pilgrimage, to visit these ancient wise trees by reading In Search of the Old Ones, an Odyssey among Ancient Trees. Perhaps this will inspire an actual pilgrimage to visit one or all of these trees.

Linda Wiggen Kraft is a landscape designer of holistic and organic gardens. She is also an artist and creativity workshop leader. Find out more, subscribe to her blog and Instagram at www.CreativityForTheSoul.com, Call her at 314 504-4266.