The Monument Tree

The Monument Tree

“In the clumpy, clumsy finger-paint of words, she searches for the use of Old Tjikko, up on that barren crest, endlessly dying and resurrecting in every change of climate. His use is to show that the world is not made for our utility. What use are we, to trees?”

Richard Powers, The Overstory

I pass the tree (pictured above), on the mouse path (which is actually more of a vole path) every day. It is what is known as a ‘pamatky strom’ – it has its own little signpost and everything. Google Translate tells me that ‘pamatky strom’ means ‘sights tree’ – which I guess would translate as ‘tree of interest’, but ‘pamatky’ on its own translates as ‘monument’. So this, to me, is the Monument Tree.

To the Monument Tree, I’m not much more than a play of light; a frantic disco-dance of matter; a vibration in its arteries. I wonder what it does to anthropomorphise a tree and I wonder if the Monument Tree treeifies me. What would a treeified me be to the Monument Tree?

I wonder if it keeps me in a category of creature which imagines time; a category of creature which survives through a continual conjuring of itself. Its still and enduring solace aides me in my mission to make a fool of me.

There is a Norway Spruce in Sweden called Old Tjikka. Whilst his trunk is a few hundred years old, his root system is over 9,000 years old. He is the oldest tree in the world. He has reproduced himself over and over and over. He has changed the way that I look at my children. He is changing the way that I regard myself (that silly river that calls itself a river).

There’s a strange discontinuity between myself and my children; myself and my parents; my parents’ parents. Yes, there is a particular facial mole and a pair of nut-brown eyes that persist throughout history like chestnuts winking on a family chestnut tree. But nothing to match the continuity of memory of Old Tjikka. 9,000 years is enough to see stones move and change shape. If stone is plasmic to a tree, then what on Earth am I? A flickering? A wave? A small matter.

I could plant a tree, couldn’t I? I could grow my own Ozymandius. I wish more people would: how much more fitting a monument is a tree than a monument; how much less prone to harboring painful memories and projecting ill across the ages.

Kestrels catch the voles along the mouse path. Some of us draw life from the clay and from the stars. Some of us skim across the surface, catching what we can from the froth of the Earth. I myself have just eaten a chicken sandwich. In some sense, I am convinced, I exist. But to the Monument Tree, I am one more transmutation, as malleable as the rock it watches bend within the grasp of one of its many roots.

Was it something I said?

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