What is old? It is a perspective problem. An old building in Snellville is considered a new building in many parts of the world. The “new” golf course at St. Andrews was built in 1895. But how old is an old forest? Again, it’s a matter of perspective.
In some places, trees are estimated to be thousands of years old. We find ourselves at the other end of the spectrum in Georgia, where practically any tree is “second cut”. That is, the forest that was here 300 years ago has since been cleared for timber sale and the lowland spaces made into fields for growing grapes, Indigo and Mulberry production, and later for corn and cotton and ranching. As local demand for housing outbid local demand for cash crops, the cotton and corn faded away and the trees returned. First pine trees, which paved the way for the Tulip Poplar, a fast-growing deciduous tree. The organic matter dropped from those early hardwoods laid fertile soil for more deciduous trees and the resulting canopy choked out the pine trees. Eventually, a little more than a hundred years ago on this property, some oak trees started to take root. So, are these trees old? I’m not sure, but I couldn’t replace them in the time I have left on earth, and I get a little sentimental when it comes to removing one.
We are moving further from natural areas with our digital lives and virtual experiences, but there’s some kind of growth and healing that takes place when you’re in a natural area. Maybe it’s because it’s one of the few things that remains constant throughout your entire life. As technologies improve and the synthetic world around us follows that technology, familiarity is lost. We like familiarity. But nature is the same. Trees grow the same way they have for… as many years as you think the world has been spinning. The smells are the same, the crunching leaves under your feet, the texture of leaves and bark, the sounds of birds looking for… companionship. I think it’s that familiarity that heals us. And to share those natural places with a child is to share that healing opportunity with them for the rest of their lives.
A big part of what we’re trying to do here is create timeless spaces. Front porches with rocking chairs. Shade-drenched, lakeside lawn chairs. A swing under an old oak tree. But nature, in the purest sense, is timeless. If we can give a natural space a hundred-year head start and protection for the next hundred years, then we have done something good.