Along the western section of the Falls of the Ohio State Park is one of my favorite trees. It’s a large cottonwood tree that you can sit under its roots! Many years a go the river must have eroded the bank surrounding this tree and enough of its root system was left and continued to grow that a nice sized space was formed. It’s a favorite place for young lovers and people taking shelter from thunderstorms. I’ve taking advantage of this “room” while waiting out rain showers and it’s also a handy place to escape the summer heat.
There are other tree formations in the area and many of them are quite sculptural and picturesque. I find myself taking many pictures in this area. One day while I was engaged in this activity, I accepted an invitation to hang out and take a break with a new friend of mine. Although he is shy and doesn’t like cameras, he did allow me to take his portrait and a few images of him in his home.
He doesn’t have a name in the conventional way we have names. He simply describes himself as the Spirit of the Tree and he has adopted this special cottonwood tree as his charge. As far as I can tell…what he does for the tree to look after it is “pray” for its continued good health.
This is a picture of the “front door” of this tree house. It does break with traditional idea of a tree house by being ground level instead of elevated. The “back door” is covered by river scavenged planks .
The Spirit of the Tree invited me in and I took a look around. Yes, there were beer cans and the remnants of fire pits. I imagined that this tree was used by homeless people on more than one occasion. There was even graffiti that some careless person thought was needed in this already special place. All this causes the Spirit of the Tree much concern and he tells me that it takes a lot of incense and sweet grass to purify the tree.
This is not the Spirit’s first tree, but he did say it was his favorite one so far. Because it is so accessible by man and the river…it’s just a matter of time before nature reclaims it. You can see the evidence of this process all around the cottonwood tree. Once upon a time, there were several other trees keeping this special tree company, but wind and water have taken their toll. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough “Spirits” around for every tree and so they must be choosy by necessity.
I have included several images of the views out from under this cottonwood tree. You can just make out the skyline of the Louisville and the fossil beds in the background. Sitting under this tree…you might think is potentially scary, but I have always found it comforting.
You can see how the roots just drop down into the ground. They are large and numerous enough to buttress this tree. There is even a window providing a view of the western side of the park and here it is.
I talked with the Spirit of the Tree for about an hour before heading home. He told me he chose to reveal himself to me because he had seen me before and felt I was respectful in my dealings with his tree house. In those instances when indifferent people show up…he climbs the trees roots and branches and hangs out in the woods until they leave and then he purifies the tree again to keep it going strong for a little while longer. My parting image of the Spirit of the Tree is of him standing on this tree’s amazing roots and looking up at the riverbank.
Because there aren’t enough Spirits to go around to take care of all the trees we need in this world…I think it would be a good idea of everybody who cared about such things would adopt a tree or two for themselves. Doing so would be good for our spirits too! To end this post, here is another angle on that really sculptural tree that fell down years a go.