For many years now I have canoed or skied past this island point in the Boundary Waters wilderness. I often pause to look at that white cedar that ekes out a delicate living as it clings to the vertical bare rock face. Tenacious trees like this can easily reach several hundred years of age. Growing is slow with no soil and few nutrients but the location does allow it to survive fire and windstorms. A couple of miles away is a cedar that is at least 1500 years old. No doubt, more survive hidden on secluded cliffs across the border that no one has or ever will see. Bonsai relics that give one a kind of peace just knowing they are there.
On my New Years Eve ski this year I passed by this old friend again. The trail of fox tracks made the scene irresistible - two accounts of time played as the falling snow forever covered the fox’s brief story while the old cedar endures. As brief as the fox passing was I saw as much description in the paw print narrative, as a short story in a magazine would tell. I’ve spent a lifetime interpreting those signs and enjoy spending an hour following a trail like this as much as reading a book.
Did an Ojibwa quietly place a tobacco offering from his birch bark canoe in the hole at the base of the cedar tree’s trunk? How much forgotten and lost history has played out in front of this old veteran? What was the name of the last French Voyageur that paddled past the tree in the late 1800’s?
A new numbered calendar of time that we now swap for the old doesn’t mean much in that world.
Jim Brandenburg 1.1.12