Posted by: pilgrm34 | September 9, 2011

oldest living things

September 8, 2011

I’m at the top of the Bluff overlooking Willamette Cove. It’s early morning…early for me anyway. 7:30ish am. New location: a secret viewpoint accessed by following the south fence of the Benson estate out to the edge. It’s a steep embankment (close to straight down) with a sweeping view of the Willamette greenway extending for miles. As soon as I get to the precipice two turkey vultures coasting just beyond it eye me. We’re equally startled! Their broad wingspan is the first thing to strike me—six feet at least. They soar quickly south sweeping with their eyes even though

Turkey Vulture view of Willamette Cove

we’re hundreds of feet over the greenway. They have sharp eyesight and can soar gracefully for hours without flapping since they glide on thermals of warm, rising air. According to the Turkey Vulture Society (you gotta love it), after rising effortlessly on a thermal, they glide as far as possible before flapping to regain altitude. They rely on air currents deflected upwards off hills, to remain aloft while scanning the ground for food—an ingenious way to conserve energy.

three oldest native oak

I’m actually here to commune with the oldest living things in the neighborhood: the native oak on the 3-acre Benson estate at the edge of the Willamette Bluff. The trees are upwards of 200 years and protected by heritage status. Oaks can live up to 500 years or more. In the middle

with Benson house

east there are reputed individuals over a thousand years old. Three sister trees display the classic oak horizontal growth pattern, each with branches as large around as a normal tree trunk. I like to lean on the massive trunks and look up at the stunning branches. These are among the very few original oaks left on the Bluff. All the others, no doubt as magnificent, were cut and slid down the slope in the 1800s to be used for steamboat fuel. These three trees witnessed William Clark and his crew discover the Willamette River in 1806, and were present when the Multnomah Chinook lived here. Oak were considered sacred by the Chinook—a thin place between heaven and earth, just as they were to Abraham, the father of Judeo-Christian heritage. Immediately upon leaving the great city, he went to a hill at Shechem to the Oak of Moreh (Genesis 23:6). Several important firsts happened there: God appeared to him in revelation; a promise of land was made; and the first of seven altars was erected by Abraham to commemorate the sacred place.

A contemporary poet Sharlande Sledge give this description of thin places:

“Thin places,” the Celts call this space,

Both seen and unseen

Where the door between the world

And the next is cracked open for a moment

And the light is not all on the other side.

God shaped space. Holy.


massive trunk with heritage plaque

from below

horizontal branches


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: