The Witness Tree
If you ever have the opportunity to visit Penn State, be sure to set aside a half hour or an hour to visit the Arboretum (also known as the H.O. Smith Botanic Gardens). It's one of my very favorite places, and provides consistently wonderful photo opportunities, regardless of the time of year.
Having said that, though, let me admit that my favorite time for photographing the Arboretum is in late summer into early fall, when everything is in bloom, including the wonderful lotus pond that may be one of my top five places to visit to take photos.
I scheduled a 10-minute break in my day on the way to a meeting on campus to stop and visit the Arboretum in winter. The sky was doing cool things, and it was just lovely there. Lovely but bitingly cold. And I forgot my gloves, so my hands were freezing.
Pictured in this shot is the Witness Tree, also known as the Hosler Oak. On March 21, 2005, the oak tree - originally located in Lititz, PA - was dug up, its roots carefully wrapped, and the tree placed on the back of a flatbed truck for transport to the Arboretum. (See a photo of the tree being moved at the Arboretum's website.)
The Arboretum is still very young, and it is a work in progress. The Witness Tree was named as such because it is intended that the tree will be "a living cornerstone that will witness the full development of the Arboretum."
A few days ago, I read a very sad story in the news about the Senator, the oldest pond cypress tree in the world. It had burned and been destroyed. The tree was 3500 years old. My mind was boggled, just thinking of all of the events that tree had witnessed.
I had never visited the tree (it's in Florida) but I felt a deep, deep sorrow for its passing. The loss of that collective tree's memory. A silence in a spot where that tree had been quietly breathing, quietly living, quietly witnessing. A strong and enduring life force, suddenly hushed.
I looked for quotes about witnessing to go along with this shot, and here's the most appropriate one that I found: "Every artist seems to me to have the job of bearing witness to the world we live in." - Jane Rule.
I think about my photography, the excellent and invigorating and almost holy burden - or maybe better a CALLING - that I sometimes feel - a responsibility for documenting and sharing the beauty of the world around me. I am a witness too.
Witness Tree, I wish you all the best in the coming years. May those years be good to you. May your memories be sweet ones. May amazing birds nest in your branches. May the winds be kind and gentle to you, and the sun shine warm upon your face. May all around you be beauty.
And I - just a girl with a camera - I will continue to bear witness too.