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The Gospel According to Trees: Thoughts from Muir (there will probably be a lot of these)

October 7th, 2010 | 2 min read

By Cate MacDonald

When I read That Hideous Strength for the first time, I was impressed by Lewis’ deep appreciation of the ancient forests and trees. In the novel, the forests serve as a counterpoint to the ugly, progressive for the sake of progressive, and hyper-rationalized world of the science lab, and an indication of the spiritual nature of the living world. It also reminded me that there are two sides to environmental preservation. Though we often focus on the practical benefits (you know, like not starving or causing wide-spread devastation), Lewis knew that there was something inherently (and mysteriously) good about being amongst the older members of our earth. This passage by John Muir (written during part of his public campaign for national parks) reminded me of that same sentiment.

Any fool can destroy trees. They cannot run away; and if they could, they would still be detroyed – chased and hunted down as long as fun or a dollar could be got out of their bark hides, branching horns, or magnificent bole backbones.

Few that fell trees plant them; nor would planting avail much towards getting back anything like the noble primevil forests. During a man’s life only sapplings can be grown, in the place of the old trees – tens of centuries old – that have been destroyed.

It took more than three thousand years to make some of the trees in these western woods – trees that are still standing in perfect strength and beauty, waving and singing in the mighty forest of the Sierra. Through all of the wonderful, eventful centuries since Christ’s time – and long before that – God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalances, and a thousand straining, leveling tempests and floods; but he cannot save them from fools. I guess Uncle Sam will need to do that.