Oct 8 2009

Ancient Life

CA Bristlecone-2Right now, I am in Bishop, California, by the Eastern Sierras. Fall color has been poor here so far, unlike Upper Michigan where Chuck is. Often, the aspen can be quite beautiful with yellow color, but not so much this year.

I went up to the Ancient Bristlecone Forest in the nearby White Mountains today. This is one of my favorite places for a lot of reasons. But mainly, it is being near these amazing bristlecone pines. They grow very slowly up on top of the mountains because of tough conditions, especially a soil based on dolomite rock that keeps a lot of other stuff from growing at all. It can take 50 years for a seedling to reach four feet tall.

These trees are also exceedingly tough. The severe conditions often mean parts of the trees will die over the years, yet they will still keep growing. Now here is the amazing part — these trees are among the oldest in the world and have been documented to have lived as long as 4,000 years. Most of the old, broken down trees have looked like that for centuries and have lived thousands of years.

It is an incredible experience to me to be in the presence of such ancient life. These trees were old when Christ was on our planet! They have outlived governments, nations, and all sorts of things we people would call calamities, yet they keep growing. They live in extremely difficult conditions where it is cold most of the year, winter winds can be brutal, rainfall is limited, soil conditions are marginal, yet they continue to grow and live on.

I find that remarkable. These trees simply “are” and cannot worry about what they are, what they are not, where they live, etc. They worry not. They just do what they do best, survive difficult conditions, and do it better than any other living thing.

When I was in college and got stressed, I would often think about trees. I knew that every spring they would have new leaves, regardless of the Minnesota winters where I lived. In nature, God doesn’t work in short bursts. God works over time and cycles are a consistent part of the world He has created. We may get all upset about something, but most of the time, it will pass, just like winter.

Just like the harsh conditions of a mountain top. A bristlecone isn’t in life to overreact to every little thing that challenges it. It is simply there to survive, to be part of God’s cycles, year after year, just as God is with us forever, not just when a problem comes up. Maybe that is one reason why I like visiting the bristlecones. They represent a sense of constancy that feels close to God.

— Rob