The Beauty of the Aged

The Bristlecone Pines, some of which are over 4,000 years old, a thousand more than the Sequoias, are the Yodas of the tree world. Not nearly the most beautiful trees in the world, the younger ones stand tall with frizzled needle branches; the older trees twisted and gnarled like bonsai gone awry. And therein is the beauty. Over centuries in the sub-alpine region just below the tree line of the California White Mountains, the perseverance of weather has taken its toll on the trees. Now they stand and often lean, misshapen and contorted, the bark split or stripped, exposing their longevity through rings that form O’keefe works of art in the flow of their grain. Needles are splotchy in many of the trees, limited sometimes to only one or two green-bearing branches. But still, there is life. And some of them stand dead, contorted carcasses with twisted roots in the rocky soil. But yet they stand. And that is the beauty.

This is an excerpt of The Rucksack Letters by Steve McAllister. Buy your copy of the eBook on


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