By Eilene Lyon
Last year I visited several national parks, as I do every year. This photo shows bristlecone pines in Great Basin National Park. Yes, I was there hugging trees. It’s true. But there were no witnesses (other than the trees), so you’ll have to trust me on that. When I peered out of my tent that October morning, it was 19 degrees and there was fresh snow on the peaks. Not too many people were venturing to the mountaintop.
An interesting fact about bristlecone pines, regarding their longevity, is that they only achieve their maximum age (as much as 5,000 years) when exposed to harsh environmental conditions. This particular grove of ancients is found at nearly 9,000 feet, on a steep, northeast-facing, windy and rocky slope. The pines will grow at lower elevations, in milder conditions, but there they live just a few hundred years, like other pine species.
Like the bristlecone pine, I believe people become stronger and more resilient by surviving hardship. We should welcome the challenges in our lives – they are what we teach us the most. It’s difficult to imagine that these Great Basin trees were seedlings at the dawn of the current era. Think of all the history that has transpired while they grew and were carved by the elements into spare, twisted forms. They have endured extreme weather and the temptation of man to cut them down. And still they remain. How wise they must be!