Have you seen one of the great trees? The old trees, the trees of history? Some of them are preserved on hotel properties, like the Guanacaste trees in Liberia. Others are preserved by local families, like the 500 year old ceiba tree in Nuevo Arenal. Still others are protected in national parks and private preserves. Wherever they are, they are national treasures.
We have a great tree on our farm, not as old as some, a mere 350 years or so, but still a piece of history. Another tree, nearly as old, was struck by lightning long before we arrived and was hollowed out by insects, rain, and bacteria. Still, there was enough left
that we were able to harvest and use it. Think – the tree was young before the American Revolution and fell as men walked in space.
The older trees are an even greater wonder. They grew as the Maya and Aztec warred. They grew as the Melecu built their villages around the rivers we now call the Aguacate and Piedras. Their branches built the cook fires and kilns for the pottery whose shards we find around the lake and in deposits of clay around the rivers. They grew before Columbus landed on the shores of the Caribbean and before the conquistadors sweated their way across Central America to see the Pacific Ocean for the first time.
People come as tourists to Costa Rica and take home, as a souvenir, a placemat or a carving from a tree root and never think about it as something to be treasured. We know better. We know it is a fragment of a silent witness to history.
I run my hand over the wood in the bench outside my front door and marvel at the strength of it, the complexity of its colors, the movement I see in the grain. I wonder what it would say if it could speak. In death, it sheltered bats and bugs and snakes. Perhaps a tayra or a river otter sheltered in it or a rabbit nested in a hollow branch and raised its young. So much history in a single tree, now a bench, a table, a carved piece for the bedroom. The wood is hard and strong, it will last a long time.
Look for the great trees. Look with admiration. Look with wonder. These trees are our history. They are national treasures.