Living monuments

By: Louk Vreeswijk

Feb 03 2013

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Category: The Americas, U.S.A.

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Americans are used to having things big: skyscraper buildings; paper mugs for coke or weak coffee in sizes big, bigger, biggest; and trees in dimensions that are unparalleled in the world.

When we are walking in the midst of giant sequoia trees we suddenly feel tiny and humble. But it is not only the sheer size that fills us with awe, it’s also the incredible age of the trees: the biggest sequoias can be over 2000 years old!

They were already there “when David danced before the Ark; when Theseus ruled Athens; when Aeneas fled from the burning wreck of Troy“, as somebody with a sense of history observed in the middle of the 19th century, when these mammoth trees were first discovered by the white Americans. Or, as John Muir, one of the first American environmentalists, remarked with regret over a felled sequoia: “this tree was in its prime, swaying in the Sierra winds when Christ walked the earth.” With the Sequoia gigantea, these living monuments rooted in antiquity, America now too had its own ardently wished link with a distant historical past.

Quotations taken from Simon Schama, “Landscape and Memory” (1995)

Photo of the week: Giant sequoias in Mariposa Grove, California, USA, 1998

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