White Ladies in a Dark Forest
by, 01-10-2009 at 07:49 PM (493 Views)
I have been so struck this winter by the beauty of the white bark of the Sycamores' standing out so brightly among the darker trees that stand in their shadows. Along the Shenandoah River, they can be seen in great number. Graceful arms stretching out to greet the sun, cheerful even in the dullest of days.
Closer inspection shows them to be ladies who love their faces directly in the sun while their toes rest in or beside the waters buried in silty or sandy soil. Finding them in isolated spots in fields or mountain sides usually will bring you to a streamlet. How absolutely beautify they are! Although easy to ignore them in summer when all the trees have their greenery in place, they absolutely cannot be ignored during the winter when all the trees have lost their coverings.
These trees are also known as buttonwood, planetree, and button-ball tree. They have a most interesting fruit from which many of their names come from. Their fruit does appear to be a ball hanging from a stem much like a Christmas ball hangs from a Christmas tree. The fruit hangs on till the spring when the fruit will open and send forth its parachute seeds. The water that they love will help as well as the winds to carry their future survival along their paths. The seed that survives floods, birds, and trash will become another white lady to grace the somber winter.
They are the largest of the eastern hardwood trees with the largest recorded as being 49 feet in circumference or 15 feet in diameter. They grow rapidly, approximately four feet per year, reaching a height of over 120 feet. Its forked crown reaches up to 100 feet in spread making it a cherished shade tree. It also is known to live over 500 years.
I personally was taken by the following history lesson regarding the tree:
"The sycamore bark is a thin red veneer that readily strips off as the tree grows, exposing the
underlying gray, brown, or green wood. In the winter, it presents an almost spectral pallor that offsets the drab shades of the other deciduous trees. The Persian King Xerxes (519-465 BCE) found the sycamore so beautiful that he had a gold medal struck with the image that he wore as an amulet. Due to its stunning appearance it was frequently chosen by the Sons of Liberty as the spot designated as a meeting point for clandestine activity. The sycamore thus was frequently chosen as the Liberty Tree, as was the case in Newport, Rhode Island. The British cut them down or burned them as a means to prevent the spread of the insurgency."
"Sycamore wood is characterized by a grain structure that alternates in its growth pattern from year to year. As the grain is not aligned, it is very difficult to split and it is therefore seldom used for firewood or for large scale constructions. However, it is hard and tough. Early colonists cut logs into cross sections through which they bored a central hole to use for the wheels of ox carts. It was also used for butchers' blocks, barber poles, wooden washing machines and wooden stereoscopes. Its attractive grain structure made it suitable for aesthetic applications like the backs of violins and the paneling in Pullman railway cars. Native Americans used an entire tree to make dugout canes, some as long as 65 feet."
These ladies are also known for frequently becoming hollowed out as they age. Stories from our own history are filled with armies hiding out in them during the Civil War and our own early settlers, such as the Morgan family, who lived in the Sycamores temporarily until they could build their own homes.
For me, seeing them reminds me of stories discussed in church among Christians where the saints will rejoice in the coming of the Lord. The fact that they are usually gracing living water (which to the Hebrews means moving water) only reminds me more of the Living Water that the children of God surround. Their roots in Christ and their eyes set on God, they lift up their arms in rejoicing. Nature, for me, again depicts a beautiful, spiritual truth.