If Trees Could Talk
By Cindy Elder, Executive Director, Coggeshall Farm Museum
The rhythms of daily life are etched into the world around us. Nowhere is this more visible than in the trees which quietly witness little milestones and major events, recording them for the careful eye to read.
At Coggeshall Farm Museum, wood processing is intertwined with every element of the farm. We chop wood to heat the farmhouse, split rails to repair our fences, produce shingles and boards to repair our buildings, whittle tool handles and knitting needles, carve wooden troughs with an adz, harvest fruit from trees and tap our maples to produce syrup.
In the late 18th century, the area surrounding Coggeshall Farm would have been largely cleared of trees to make way for farmland. Our now plentiful supply of trees helps us to appreciate the utilitarian value of these silent giants, who capture the passing of time in their rings.
On one cross-section of a log we find man-made tap marks from maple sugaring conducted decades past. On another log we discover the precise pinpoint holes encircling a trunk, which we theorize were left by a yellow-bellied sap sucker. An axe-hewn trunk reveals an artist's image of time.
When we take a moment to slow down and look more closely at the world around us, wonders are revealed. What once seemed to be a simple pile of firewood becomes a glimpse into the past and a clue to our ecosystem.
The next time you pass a wood pile, consider pausing and pulling out a log or two. What stories lay hidden in those rings? Who stood by those trees when they were young, when the secrets of life lay ahead?
Robert Frost considered the stories held by trees when he wrote this poem, "Tree at My Window."
Tree at my window, window tree,
My sash is lowered when night comes on;
But let there never be curtain drawn
Between you and me.
Vague dream-head lifted out of the ground,
And thing next most diffuse to cloud,
Not all your light tongues talking aloud
Could be profound.
But, tree, I have seen you taken and tossed,
And if you have seen me when I slept,
You have seen me when I was taken and swept
And all but lost.
That day she put our heads together,
Fate had her imagination about her,
Your head so much concerned with outer,
Mine with inner, weather.
Your post reminds me of something we saw when we were in Northern California, in redwood territory. There was a display with the trunk of a redwood cut in half, and at various points, starting in the middle, were arrows pointing at a ring with the year and various milestones...going all the way back 1000 years.