[Edited: I learned 2/12/18 that this is actually a pitch pine. See my new blog post.] There is a red pine in the middle of our back yard… the only big tree (40 plus feet) that is not at the edge of the yard. But I have been struggling to create an affectionate relationship with this tree. I have had other very special trees in my life, and I loved the many trees that surrounded our home in North Yarmouth. So why is this one hard?
I have been reading a lovely book, The Garden Awakening by Mary Reynolds, which is focused on creating a relationship with our land. She talks about trees as the guardians of the land. So if we want to go deeper with the land, we need to go deeper with the trees. That got me thinking again about the challenge of the red pine.
Perhaps it started when we first moved here, and were concerned about trees possibly shading the solar panels. Or perhaps it is tied to my grief about the maple tree that was by the side of our house which we did have to take down because of dangerous branches and solar shading. I loved that tree, and felt the contradiction so acutely: even though the maple tree was willing, and its wood became the ground layer mulch for our future orchard. We decided that the solar panels would be okay with the pine tree’s slight shading, but it did get us off to a wary start.
So here it is. It was identified as a red pine by an arborist who came by. Right now, I have an intention to go deeper with this tree. I want to understand all the dimensions of this relationship. Some things that feel difficult to me: The branches are all too high to reach, so it feels rather aloof. When the pinecones drop, and there are lots of them, the ground underneath becomes difficult to walk on. All around the tree there are old pinecones half buried in the grass from many years past. If I could pick one word to describe my feeling of the tree, it would be “prickly.”
What helps? Last spring, we held an introduction to permaculture design course at our house, and many of the participants commented on the loveliness of the pine tree. There is a beautiful asymmetry in its branches. Their appreciation of the tree helped me to see its beauty. The red pine is native to North America. They can live up to 350-500 years. Some sources said pine trees are symbols of longevity and wisdom.
One website mentioned that its roots “are moderately deep and wide spreading. The lateral root masses also send down “sinkers” which anchor the tree very well in the soil. Red pines are very wind firm because of this dense root system.”
Okay, deep roots and anchors in the soil. I like that. I am investigating medicinal uses: one might be pine needle tea, which is good for immune function, bronchitis, and many other ailments. More to research here. This morning, I took pictures of the pine, and stood next to it, leaning against the bark. What do you have to teach me, dear red pine?