Two largely unrelated stories surfaced this week that might lead one to some healthy introspection.
The first involved Big Lonely Doug, the 1,000-year-old Coastal Douglas-fir that captured the imagination of not just environmentalists, but of most people who heard the story.
We learned and celebrated that Doug, along with 53 of his ancient friends, would be protected in perpetuity from the chain saws of lumber companies.
That seemed only right, given that Doug was around when Vikings first made landfall in North America. It could be argued that he’d earned his survival.
But while that news created an overwhelmingly positive reaction that was easily rationalized on the basis of some sort of historical reverence, the loss of four large Douglas-firs at Evergreen Centre put that rationale in question.
Perhaps it wasn’t as simple as Doug’s age.
The trees at the mall after all were not particularly special. They were only about 50 years old and not unlike hundreds of thousands of other trees that surround Sooke on every side.
Yet as the mall trees crashed to the ground, many in Sooke grieved in the way one might mourn the passing of a friend.
The truth, it seemed, was that regardless of whether we’re talking about BIg Lonely Doug or the four trees at what people are now bitterly referring to as the “Nevergreen Mall,” trees give us a connection to something larger than ourselves.
Those mall trees were linked to memories.
They’d been decorated at Christmas to join in the celebration of the season. They’d watched as the community grew and changed; seen young love in bloom and life-long promises of affection realized.
Though only 50 years old, they’d become a part of the community, striving to reach the heavens at the same time as Sooke itself was striving to find its own way.
Thoreau wrote about the living spirit of the tree and it’s probably true that somewhere, deep in our own spirits, we feel the ancient connections between trees and ourselves.
It’s why sacred groves have existed throughout mankind’s journey and why we still get a sense of something larger than ourselves when we walk through a forest.
It’s also why, while we recognize that the mall trees probably had to come down to allow for progress, cutting down a tree, whether it’s Big Lonely Doug or a much younger counterpart, should never be a thoughtless act. It should always be done with a certain reverence for a living thing.